Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Lack of Asian-American Student Lit Mags at Colleges and Universities

Here's a question: Why are there virtually no Asian/Asian-American student literary magazines at colleges and universities? Even as the Asian-American student population at colleges and universities continues to grow, and even as a respectful number of Asian-American students choose to major or minor in English, the Asian or Asian-American student literary magazine remains a rare species at colleges and universities.

In fact, I can only think of two Asian-American student literary magazines -- John Hopkins' Anagram and the University of Pennsylvania's Propaganda Silk (formerly known as Mosaic -- and I do approve of the creative name change from the previous, accurate-though-pedestrian title). I find this number surprisingly low, especially if you account for the many west-coast colleges and universities, like UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, and USC, with relatively large Asian-American student populations.

I have two separate hypotheses that may or may not be right. First, I think that the relative lack of Asian-American faculty in English departments, especially tenured faculty, may be responsible for the lack of Asian-American student literary magazines. While such publications may be student-initiated, students do come and go (regardless of whether they talk of Michelangelo). In other words, most students are only at a college or university for four years, and usually, it takes a year or two simply to become acclimated to dorm life and midnight marathons of reading poems. The faculty remain, and often a student-run publication needs a dedicated faculty advisor to ensure its year-to-year endurance.

Second, I think that some Asian-American students either do not want or take an interest in an Asian/Asian-American literary publication. They may feel that there is no need for a distinct, ethnically/racially-based literary magazine and even perceive such a publication as self-segregating. Now, I think that the holding of a negative perception of Asian/Asian-American literary magazines is a minority view, but I think that there are some Asian-American students who hold it.

It is an interesting question (interesting to me, at least) whether colleges and universities need Asian/Asian-American student literary publications. Perhaps Asian-American students have sufficient creative outlets elsewhere, but on the other hand, such publications may draw attention to particular issues and themes of particular salience to Asian-Americans.


Blogger Lee Herrick said...

Roger, I think your two theories are accurate. Take Marilyn Chin at San Diego State, Chang Rae Lee (Hunter College or Princeton?), Garrett Hongo (Oregon still?) and some others. I don't think there are APA lit magazines there, probably for the reasons you mention. Do you remember the Moonrabbit Review? I don't think it was affiliated with a university (and I never saw an actual copy), but it is now defunct as far as I know, like interlope (which I was would come back).

But the lack is not restricted to universities or student apathy; there is lack in general. In the most recent Poets' Market, for example, there is not a single literary magazine listed specifically intended for APA writers. They exist, of course, but not in that issue---and there are not many around at all.

So what to do? Maybe Kundiman will start something regular? Maybe someone will create an online journal? It's not easy to do, I can say that for sure (and from experience), but the rewards are significant.

3:16 PM  
Blogger Roger Pao said...

Hey Lee, yes, I remember Moonrabbit Review as well, but like you, I never came across a hard copy.

I also noticed the lack of Asian-American poetry publications in Poets' Market 2007. I think that the Asian Pacific American Writers' Workshop used to list the Asian Pacific American Writers' Journal.

It's surprising to me that there aren't at least a few online Asian-American lit journals. Perhaps blogs have made them a bit superfluous? It's hard to say. But I think that, in general, blogs have cut into the "online poetry journal market," since poets can just post poems on their respective blogs and perhaps get even more readers than online or print journals.

5:08 AM  
Blogger Justina Chen Headley said...

Hi Roger,

I have wondered the exact thing myself, but haven't articulated the reasons half as well as you did here. I'm visiting Stanford, Harvard and Dartmouth as part of my book tour, and will definitely talk to the students about this. Interesting.

Justina Chen Headley

12:19 AM  
Blogger Roger Pao said...

Hello Justina, thanks for visiting! Yes, it would be interesting to know what students, as well as faculty and staff members, at colleges and universities think of this phenomenon. Hope your book tour goes well.

7:56 PM  
Blogger Connie Chung said...

hi, i was searching for blogs written by asian american students when i came across yours, and actually found it very inspiring and sadenning (because your latest entry was written so long ago). i'm looking into starting a literary journal/magazine compiled by asian american students at my school. i would love to get some advice and feedback.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Jaclyn Lee said...

I googled MoonRabbit Review and came up you this page. I know where you can get a copy of all 3 issues of The MoonRabbit Review because I was the editor, Jackie Lee. If you're interested, I may be able to scout out a few copies here and there. Email me:

thanks and keep up the dialog! Jackie

8:04 PM  
Blogger Hapa Shorty said...

Stumbled upon your post in search of Asian American poets...
it's ironic because I'm the editor of the magazine "OffYello" - a production of the Asian Pacific American Student Union at the University of Oregon. It's been around since the 90s.

It's a small, yearly publication, but a publication nonetheless.

As editor, I admit that it's difficult to get contributers, partly because it is hard to define what is an Asian American publication, especially at a mostly white populated school. Also, as you said, there are many other outlets for artistic expression at my school.

Even so, I hope that OffYello and other Asian American publications spring up and flourish at colleges. I think they're so important to giving a voice to the next generation of Asian Americans.

12:23 AM  

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