Asian American Writers’ Workshop celebrates 30 years


The Asian American Writers Workshop celebrates its 30th anniversary with a series of digital events and a three-month fundraising campaign. “It’s a lot of different pieces and it’s intentional,” said Jafreen Uddin, executive director. “Retrospectives are essential for taking stock of where you came from and how you got there, but it’s also important to look to the future. The workshop hopes to address the past and the future while raising $ 75,000 throughout 2021 to help support the organization’s programming and operations.

“One of the first things I wanted to do when I started as executive director a year and a half ago was to have a big 30th anniversary gala,” Uddin explained. However, Covid and the Delta variant made this impractical. However, digital is not new to the workshop. “We were one of the first organizations to go all out on virtual programming,” Uddin said. “Even before the pandemic, we always thought about offering our events transnationally. The workshop recorded their events in person and regularly posted them on YouTube.

The organization was started by Curtis Chin, Christina Chiu, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, and Bino A. Realuyo as a way to find community in New York City because they didn’t feel at home in the standard literary scene. This mission has continued to “drive everything we do,” Uddin said. While the days of hosting their events in a basement in St. Marks Place are over, the day-to-day operations of the organization contain this willingness to support the community.

As Uddin and his team contemplate the future of the workshop, they are not slowing down with their venerable programming. Uddin took on his new role in early 2020, a month before the pandemic hit. The workshop closed weeks before containment. “I’m generally too careful and thought, ‘Let’s try telecommuting for two weeks’, but we’ve been home ever since.” Like many organizations, the workshop found that digital events attract large audiences.

“I think a lot of the future will be hybrid,” Uddin said. In the nearly 60 events he has hosted since the start of the pandemic, the positive response and high turnout, especially with people watching the events after the first night, has boosted the confidence of the workshop by thinking of events as more than in person.

Among other events planned for the year on October 27, Uddin will join Snigdha Sur, Cathy Linh Che and Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis to discuss the idea of ​​home and what it means to create a home under different forms. The flagship event in November will look at the legacy of the organization’s print magazine and its evolution to a digital-only magazine. The campaign concludes with a digital star-studded gala in December that celebrates the 30th anniversary of the workshop and the conclusion of the fundraiser.

These events are in conjunction with, rather than replacing, the usual workshop activities. “We continue to launch books and lead conversations,” Uddin said. “We celebrate, but we’re also doing the job we’ve always done. ”

“We do a lot on purpose,” Uddin added. “We want to provide as many channels as possible for people to connect to the workshop. “


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