AWP Report: Trends in South Asian Diaspora Writing

By Nicolle Elizabeth

I was at the AWP conference in Denver this past weekend to give a reading and sign some chapbooks. The mood was cheery, the elevation high, the Colorado Rocky mountains (which I had never seen in person before) were glorious and the background chatter pleasant. I thought what would be a better panel to go to first thing in the morning than "Trends in South Asian Diaspora Writing." Mary Ane Mohanraj and a panel of South Asian authors opened the talk with their personal experiences in publishing and writing, and from sentence one the subject matter was intense. "Certain things are expected of us as South Asian writers. People think we should be writing about arranged marriages. We are given permission to address only certain types of subject matter." Ms. Mohanaraj began. The talk moved between stereotyping writers from particular communities and how to navigate the issue. A student at E. Michigan in the Fiction program chimed in after reading some of his work in progress, "This is a story about family, and it could have been written anywhere."

Minal Hajratwala echoed the sentiment, reading some of her own work and trying to clarify on the work to dissolve cultural boundaries in literature: "You move toward the transcendent moments, the way we are linguistic beings, touched."

While the talk wasn't necessarily about the art of translating itself, I left the panel with the sentiment standing, still: Doesn't matter the language, we are all trying to communicate.


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