Founded in 1991, The Asian American Writers’ Workshop is the preeminent national nonprofit arts organization devoted to great writing by Asian Americans–many of whom are cut off from the arts. Not only do nearly all Asian Americans live in non-English-speaking immigrant households, the few Asian Americans who do become writers find themselves faced with a publishing industry that rarely publishes work by writers of color. Although nearly 1 in 20 Americans are of Asian descent–less than .01% of novels published each year are written by Asian Americans. This is why we want all Asian Americans to feel their stories matter. We want to nurture all Asian American writers, whether they’re Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri, whose first book party we hosted, or a struggling young writer just graduating from school. We want every American, no matter the color of their skin, to understand how Asian America forms a central chapter of the American story. As National Book Foundation Executive Director Harold Augenbraum writes, we help many Asian Americans satiate “a hunger they never knew they had: a hunger for literature, cultural recognition, and a connection to their heritage.”
We are one of the most active Asian American groups and literary groups in New York–and we’re growing. In 2008, our more-than-weekly reading series consisted of 51 events featuring 124 writers–30% more writers than we did in 2006 and 2007 combined. These writers came from nearly twenty ethnicities, including those not usually thought of as Asian American (e.g., Iranian, Hmong, Sri Lankan Americans). The authors we have hosted in the past include some of the finest writers in America: Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri, Tony Award winner David Henry Hwang, Booker Prize winner Michael Ondaatje, National Book Award winner Maxine Hong Kingston, and Nobel Prize nominee Bei Dao. Described by our survey participants as “quirky” and “thoughtful,” our literary programming is interactive, community-based, and innovative. An authority on Asian American literature, we sponsor the Asian American Literary Awards, have published award-winning journals and anthologies, and run the only Asian American reading room. The United Asian American Organizations recently named us one of the top five Asian American groups in the country.
“Having grown up with the programs and the people of The Asian American Writers’ Workshop, I feel that they’re not only my family but indeed my homeland. The Workshop helped me get my book published. It encourages a lifelong love of writing and reading. It’s a crucial organization not only for our community, but for the ongoing global narrative as well.”
–Novelist Ed Lin, author of Snakes Can’t Run.
“The Workshop was one of the first places I felt at home in New York. My first job in New York was at the Workshop. My first reading in New York was at the Workshop. The book launch for my debut novel was at the Workshop. My friends are at the Workshop. I know that as long as I write, this is a place to which I can return, and that every time I do, I will meet someone fantastic and learn something new.”
–Novelist V.V. Ganeshananthan, author of Love Marriage
“I am deeply grateful to The Asian American Writers’ Workshop for offering a most loving literary shelter, especially as ‘loving’ and ‘shelter’ are usually not the first words one ascribes to literary institutions. I’ve felt very honored to be taken in at this point in my life as a writer. It’s one thing to be offered a platform for one’s work, but the people I have met and the events I have been a part of–and often just witness to, as an audience member–have been infinitely inspiring in a way I have not encountered, ever.”
–Novelist Porochista Khakpour, author of Sons and Other Flammable Objects.