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“There aren’t a lot of you out there”: What? Let’s fix our female Asian-American writer blind spot now

Who says Asian American women aren’t writing fiction? “We are everywhere if you only look!”

"This summer, I traveled around the U.S. to promote my debut novel, “Everything I Never Told You.”  At one university where I’d been invited to speak, I asked the professor hosting me how he’d found me. He admitted he’d needed an Asian American woman fiction writer to balance his speaker lineup. “There aren’t a lot of you out there,” he said, with evident embarrassment.

Many universities and events deliberately try to select diverse speakers, and I think it’s a fine way to expose audiences to writers of different backgrounds. But I was startled to hear there weren’t many Asian American women fiction writers.  Off the top of my head, I could think of several dozen.

Early on, 2014 was designated the “Year of Reading Women.” Partly inspired by the annual VIDA count — which for four straight years has shown a huge gender disparity in major literary publications — the #ReadWomen2014 movement encouraged readers to do just that.

In May, Book Expo America was widely criticized when the initial lineup for BookCon, its public event, contained virtually no women and virtually no people of color.  The#WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign arose in response, to promote greater diversity in children’s and YA literature. (Full disclosure: I took part in a BookCon panel myself, in the awkward position of a woman of color who had actually been invited months before the controversy.)

In other words, in 2014, we might have expected awareness of women writers and writers of color to be on the rise.  And I still hope it is, on the whole.  Yet there it was, that statement I heard surprisingly often: “There just aren’t many Asian American women writers.”

Several years ago, frustrated by similar remarks about authors of color, the writer and critic Roxane Gay compiled a list of them, aptly titled “We Are Many. We Are Everywhere.” Inspired by Gay’s list, I put out a call on Twitter for names of Asian American women writers. Within hours, I was deluged with suggestions.  Even after I narrowed the focus to authors who had published a book of fiction — the type of speaker most venues seek — the list swelled into the hundreds.”

Read the full piece, and see the list of Asian American women writers here

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