The 2019 Asian American Literature Festival wrapped up Sunday, Aug. 4 in Washington, D.C., with #aalitfest trending on Twitter. A free biennial event hosted by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, the Library of Congress, and the Poetry Foundation, it attracted writers for all ages, across multiple genres, and representing a range of ethnicities.
The avalanche of deeply emotional tweets shows how clearly the event moved participants. YA author Sona Charaipotra reported that scholar Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen found that even though there are currently more books with Asian American characters, #ownvoices representation has not increased. Dahlen in turn attended the panel “Breaking All the Stereotypes: Why Asian YA literature Is Having a Big Moment,” during which author Misa Sugiura said she believes a contributing factor is that “we have a distinct outsider experience and we bring that to our writing.” A Muslim writers salon explored “immigration, queer love, displacement, diaspora, mysticism, and refugee experiences.” Children’s author Minh Lê lauded closing speaker Ocean Vuong for his “soul-stirring” talk; Vuong thanked his mother and her generation for “spending day in and out with their heads down so we are able to hold our heads up.”
Laura Simeon is the young adult editor.