I am writing this in the wake of attending the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC 2014) , a conference which my fellow editor Carmen also attended (read her takeaways here). I sat in a couple of conference sessions focused on the Asian diaspora and Asian writing and this caught me wondering – who exactly is the Asian writer? Really, people say “Asian Writer” like it’s supposed to mean something?
It is definitely easy to regard the Asian writer as someone who is Asian in origin; by origin I loosely mean genotype. Somewhere in the past your ancestors came from some part of the continent of what we call Asia. If we accepted this generalization, the next wrench in the works is the fact that Asia is really big. Not only that, Asian is very culturally diverse. What is it that ties us together?
If by virtue of the originating geography of the authors we class them as Asian writers, what about migrants? Global migration is no longer in its infancy; people of Asian origin have been in other continents for generations, easily more than 150 years. Children of these migrants are born and bred in a new environment; traditions, even language, may not have been passed down the generations. Are they still Asian writers?
Writing Asian, essence of Asian-ness, what is authenticity, how much is enough – these questions must invariably cross the minds of any writer who wishes to put in elements of Asia in their work. I recall once dissing a self-published urban fantasy novel set in an unnamed American town by an Asian teenager as inauthentic (she also resides in Asia) - the quality of writing aside, one wonders if I would have treated the book the same way if it had been written by an American teen. Maybe I do enjoy the Asian exotic. Exactly how I do that as an ethnic and cultural Asian, I don’t know.
I am very well aware that I have posed more questions than answers in this post, but it’s all in the spirit of getting you to think. I leave you with one last question - what is Asian writing?