Sunday, November 15, 2009

Page Turner: The Asian American Literary Festival

The Asian American Writers' Workshop expanded its annual awards ceremony into a literary festival. The one-day event took place yesterday at the Powerhouse Arena, in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Two separate readings took place at every hour from 11 AM to 6 PM. I attended the 4 PM session "Sex and the Cities: Stories of Love & the Metropolis" with readings by Hari Kunzru, Monique Truong and Mort Baharloo. From where we sat we could hear the other reading, and so it was hard to concentrate, especially during the mic-wrecked question-and-answer that followed.

The day ended with a reading by Jhumpa Lahiri, the main reason why six students, who studied her work last year, came with me. This was my third time hearing her read, and she continued to wow me with her thoughtful poise. When someone from the audience asked an obnoxious question, she declined firmly but gracefully to give an answer. In her replies to her interviewer, she did not try to say more than she meant. One answer stayed with me. Writing, for her, is a place where she does not have to meet others' expectations. She has only to please herself.

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