In The Collective, the characters Eric Cho, Joshua Yoon, and Jessica Tsai form a shaky coalition called the 3AC - Asian American Artists Collective. A similar organization was founded in New York around twenty years ago: The Asian American Writers' Workshop.
This non-profit organization works to spread the growth of literature by Asian American writers, remove cultural stereotypes, and promote a dialog that values the place of Asian Americans in contemporary American society.
The workshop got its beginnings when nearly a half-dozen Asian American writers got together at a diner in Brooklyn, NY and talked about the explosion in literary efforts by fellow citizens. They founded the workshop as a means of encouraging and nurturing young talent.
The Asian American Writers' Workshop offers writing classes and get-togethers in addition to an annual literary festival, Page Turner. The workshop also presents a set of annual literary awards, which have been won by both established and lesser known artists. In 2009, Sonny Mehta, publisher and editor-in-chief at Knopf won the workshop's Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Asian American Writers' Workshop is not the only one of its kind but is looking to make a unique difference by tackling issues larger than just the desire to publish Asian American literature. For example, the workshop's magazine, Culturestrike, works to chronicle immigrant issues, including discriminatory laws against immigrants, and raise awareness about the problems they face. Art in this sector is not limited to work produced by Asian Americans alone - people from many other cultural backgrounds have contributed to this dialog. The workshop has successfully shed light on Arizona's discriminatory SB1070 law and on the rise of hate politics in Greece.
For a tour of visual images related to Don Lee's novel The Collective, check out my Pinterest board at www.pinterest.com/booksnfreshair/the-collective-by-don-lee.
This article was originally published in August 2012, and has been updated for the
July 2013 paperback release.
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