Occasionally, I like to visit the Asian American Writers' Workshop website and when possible attend one of its literary events in New York City. One of the great joys of the contemporary arts in the United States of the past three decades is the emergence of organizations whose aim is to promote and celebrate the richness of the American experience as represented in the creative visions of its diverse inhabitants, many with great legacies, histories, and needless to say, complex stories of survival, determination, and acculturation.

In their support of artists, cultural institutions such as the AAWW, Kundiman, Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts in San Francisco, Cave Canem, Inc, Lambda Literary Foundation, or the Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia (headed up by an old friend Gayle Isa), become indispensable conduits for a far more comprehensive imagining and chronicling of what America is today and the significant contributions many groups and individuals have made in the spirit of upholding and giving credibility to this country’s enlightened ideals of freedom, inclusion, and democracy.
Late last month, AAWW held its annual Asian American Literary Award ceremony (I believe it’s 10th), saluting four outstanding works by Asian American writers: Linh Dinh’s Borderless Bodies (Factory School, 2006); Amitav Ghosh’s Incendiary Circumstances: A Chronicle of the Turmoil of Our Times (Houghton Mifflin, 2006); Samrat Upadhyay’s The Royal Ghosts (Houghton Mifflin, 2006); and Gene Yuen Yang’s American Born Chinese (First Second Books, 2006).
I congratulate this year’s winners and wish the organization continued vision for 2008 & endless resources to fulfill its mission and to support its programs. Needless to say, one does not have to be an Asian American or even a writer to become a member.

Originally Published: December 20th, 2007

Major Jackson's books of poems are Holding Company (2010, Norton) and Hoops (2006, Norton), both finalists for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature-Poetry, and Leaving Saturn (2002, University of Georgia Press), which was awarded the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems and was a finalist for the National Book...