This August I’m honored to be part of the Smithsonian Asian American Literature Festival in Washington D.C. discussing my work with the community especially the history of Lao American poetry in diaspora as we prepare to mark 45 years in the US. This year’s theme is Care and Caregiving.
My remarks will be based on part on the essay I wrote, “So Are You Chinese or Japanese,” about the journey of Lao American poets in the US for the Massachusetts Review for their special Asian American literature issue, which also features the work of Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay. Newer readers may enjoy the interivew I gave about the essay here. Apparently I was the only one to conduct my interview in poetry form. Something I never quite understand, but so it goes.
From their establishment in 1997 as an initiative critical to the mission of the Smithsonian until today, the vision for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center has been to enrich the American Story with the voices of Asian Pacific Americans.
Asian Pacific America is the story of a vibrant, diverse, and resilient set of communities that have been part of the American experience for more than two hundred years. It is the story of two continents and a constellation of islands joined by the migration, exchange, and competition of people and ideas. Yet, across museums and galleries in the nation’s capital and around the country, we find only fragments of America’s rich Asian Pacific heritage.
There are more than 17 million people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in the United States. In less than 50 years, nearly one of every ten people in America will trace his or her heritage to Asia and the Pacific–a region that covers more than one third of the earth–including the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent and the Pacific. This region is also home to nearly half of the world’s population, natural life, nations, economies, major faiths and languages. America is—and has been—a Pacific Rim nation. Our understanding of America and America’s standing in the world is richer, more compelling, and more powerful when it includes the Asian Pacific American story. The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center serves as a dynamic national resource for discovering why the Asian Pacific American experience matters every day, everywhere, and all of the time.