Wednesday, July 9, 2014
July 9, 2014: ALA Follow Ups: Teaching Asian American Literature
[In late May, I had the chance to make a quick trip to Washington, DC, to attend a portion of the American Literature Association’s annual conference. I wasn’t able to stay as long as I would have liked, but did have a chance to attend some very interesting panels while I was there. So this week I’ll highlight a few of them, as well as a couple other contexts for the conference. If you were there, I’d love to hear your takeaways for a crowd-sourced weekend post!]
On three of the many things I learned from an inspiring roundtable.
The other panel I had the chance to attend was a roundtable on New Directions in Teaching Asian American Literature, where Yoonmee Chang, Patricia Chu, Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis, and Caroline Rody shared a number of exciting strategies and ideas from their own teaching. Here I’ll just highlight three of my takeaways from this great panel:
1) I’ve written before, here and elsewhere, about my work with a multi-generational family timeline and history project in my ethnic American literature course. But Patricia shared a text that provides its own version of such a project, May-Lee Chai and Winberg Chai’s The Girl from Purple Mountain (2002), as well as ways in which she gets her students to conduct their own interviews and analyses through their work with the book. Now I can’t wait for the chance for the next time I teach the ethnic course, to bring this book into the course and enrich the student projects immeasurably as a result.
2) Besides his teaching and work toward a PhD in English, Lawrence is also a founding director of the non-profit Asian American Literary Review, as well as the developer of its education project the Mixed Race Initiative. I look forward to learning more about both of those endeavors, but was particularly struck at this panel by the special issue of AALR that Lawrence brought with him: it’s entitled Mixed Race in a Box, and I honestly don’t think I can do it justice in mere words. Check out the pictures at that link, and if you get a chance to look further into this unique and wonderful project, you definitely should. I know I will!
3) In her talk, Caroline highlighted numerous books she’s taught in her Asian American, ethnic American, and contemporary literature courses—some I’ve taught myself, some I’ve read and hope to teach, some I’ve heard of and hope to read, and some I had never heard of and now can’t wait to check out. In the latter category falls Lore Segal’s The Education of Ilka Weissnix (1995), a cross-cultural, inter-ethnic, historical fiction that sounds as if it couldn’t have been tailored to my interests and obsessions any more fully if I had ordered it created. As with everything that these four presenters highlighted, learning about this book promises to deeply enrich my work and teaching.
Next follow up tomorrow,
BenPS. Were you at ALA? If so, what stood out to you?