Asian American, published and tours Asia, Winnie Li

Here my friend Winnie Li shares an opinion essay about the types of narratives Western publishers/platforms expect of Asians and Asian-American creatives  - and how work can be perceived differently on the other side of the world. Touches upon identity and the narratives we tell.

“...I am glad my Korean publishers recognized the value of promoting an Asian American female author to Asian women readers, but our readerships shouldn’t be limited by race.  It is truly a shame if Western publishers perceive a problematic gap between the race of an author and the race of a book’s intended readers—because there are readers of all ethnicities in the West, and we are all capable of empathy.  And literature, after all, is meant to transcend such human particularities. As a Taiwanese American girl growing up in the U.S., I certainly identified with characters who didn’t come from a world anything like mine: Scout Finch, Holden Caulfield, Bigger Thomas. And indeed, it works the other way around. I’ve had white male readers say that reading Dark Chapter made them understand a bit better what it’s like to be a woman, who cried reading the scenes of the heroine’s experience of the criminal justice system. So if they can identify with a Taiwanese American heroine, then that’s already one step towards progress….”

https://electricliterature.com/being-published-in-asia-changed-everything-about-my-asian-american-writer-experience/

Why America is called America

Why America is called America and the power of acknowledging “We Don’t Know”

From Harari’s Sapiens: “During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Europeans began to draw world maps with lots of empty spaces–one indication of the development of the scientific mindset, as well as of the European imperial drive. The empty maps were a psychological and ideological breakthrough, a clear admission that Europeans were ignorant of large parts of the world. The crucial turning point came in 1492, when Christopher Columbus sailed westward from Spain, seeking a new route to East Asia. Columbus still believed in the old ‘complete’ world maps. Using them, he calculated that Japan should have been located about 7,000 kilometres west of Spain. In fact, more than 20,000 kilometres and an entire unknown continent separate East Asia from Spain.


On 12 October 1492, at about 2 a.m., Columbus’ expedition collided with the unknown continent. Juan Rodriguez Bermejo, watching from the mast of the ship Pinta, spotted an island in what we now call the Bahamas, and shouted ‘Land! Land!’ Columbus believed he had reached a small island off the East Asian coast. He called the people he found there ‘Indians’ because he thought he had landed in the Indies–what we now call the East Indies or the Indonesian archipelago. Columbus stuck to this error for the rest of his life. The idea that he had discovered a completely unknown continent was inconceivable for him and for many of his generation.


For thousands of years, not only the greatest thinkers and scholars but also the infallible Scriptures had known only Europe, Africa and Asia. Could they all have been wrong? Could the Bible have missed half the world? It would be as if in 1969, on its way to the moon, Apollo 11 had crashed into a hitherto unknown moon circling the earth, which all previous observations had somehow failed to spot. In his refusal to admit ignorance, Columbus was still a medieval man. He was convinced he knew the whole world, and even his momentous discovery failed to convince him otherwise.


The first modern man was Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian sailor who took part in several expeditions to America in the years 1499–1504. Between 1502 and 1504, two texts describing these expeditions were published in Europe. They were attributed to Vespucci. These texts argued that the new lands discovered by Columbus were not islands off the East Asian coast, but rather an entire continent unknown to the Scriptures, classical geographers and contemporary Europeans. In 1507, convinced by these arguments, a respected mapmaker named Martin Waldseemüller published an updated world map, the first to show the place where Europe’s westward-sailing fleets had landed as a separate continent. Having drawn it, Waldseemüller had to give it a name. Erroneously believing that Amerigo Vespucci had been the person who discovered it, Waldseemüller named the continent in his honour–America. The Waldseemüller map became very popular and was copied by many other cartographers, spreading the name he had given the new land. There is poetic justice in the fact that a quarter of the world, and two of its seven continents, are named after a little-known Italian whose sole claim to fame is that he had the courage to say, ‘We don’t know.’...”


Amazon link to Sapiens here.

David Eldridge, Chris Goode in conversation

“The loveliest conversation with an archenemy I’ve ever had” Chris Goode on David Eldridge.

Over a decade ago, when I was first mainly theatre blogging (in the first golden age of blogs, now mostly faded) two of the fiercest and sharpest bloggers and writers were (and are) Chris Goode and David Eldridge.

Both far more successful, older and sure of their work than me, I looked up to them in many aspects of my writing practice. Chris Goode in the devised new work tradition and David Eldridge in the playwright as the primacy voice type tradition.

Emerging after an almost decade long hibernation (although behind the practitioner scene first at Talawa on board and chair, then and now at Coney)  in theatre writing I find it joyful and enlightening to find them in conversation.

They’ve both grown as artists and l find it fascinating having known them somewhat from afar (although Chris while AD at Camden’s People Theatre did programme my piece Lost in Peru, so I know him a little) to see how they now arrive in a place closer than perhaps one might have guessed from 10 years ago.

Coming back to my writing practice, it also gives me a spot of hope that I can travel further and that there are stories I still have to tell and pieces I can still make.

In any case, in my view, these are two of our most brilliant theatre makers of our generation and anyone interested in practical theatre making will enjoy listening to them in conversation, (click below or see here for Chris Goode's podcast series)


Want more theatre posts?  Check out a look at Massie-Blomfield's  20 Theatres to see before you die.

On climate  - click here for more carbon related  posts.  There's an argument made by risk philospher and Black Swan author Nassim Taleb on why we should lower pollution regardless of models.

The current Arts blog, cross-over, the current Investing blog.  Cross fertilise, some thoughts on autism.  Discover what the last arts/business mingle was all about (sign up for invites to the next event in the list below).

My Op-Ed in the Financial Times  (My Financial Times opinion article) about asking long-term questions surrounding sustainability and ESG.

Some popular posts:   the commencement address by Nassim Taleb (Black Swan author, risk management philosopher),  Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes;  JK Rowling on the benefits of failure.  Charlie Munger on always inverting;  Sheryl Sandberg on grief, resilience and gratitude.

How to live a life, well lived. Thoughts from a dying man. On play and playing games.

A provoking read on how to raise a feminist child.