The official site of author Ed Lin.

What Is the Greatest Nation in the World?

Posted by on Aug 4, 2009 in Asian American, Ed, Writing | 0 comments

Why, it’s the DO-nation!

Yes, I ripped that off from somebody who ripped it off of someone else, but it is a wonderful sentiment.

You know as well as I do that this country has experienced, shall we say, a bit of an economic malaise over the last year or so?  It’s only now that people are contemplating whether or not we’ve hit a floor.

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Let’s give this man a sidesmile!  Donate today!

Banks and financial institutions get government bailouts.  Arts institutions get the shaft.

I’m not going to get into a “art is more important than food” sort of argument.  Rather, I’d like to point out that a society is judged by its cultural legacies rather than its accumulated wealth.  Yes, excavations of the ancient world have yielded priceless treasures, but those very items are priceless not because of the precious metals or gems but mostly because of the workmanship (workwomanship, also) that wrought them.  Most valuable of all are the literary works uncovered — think of the various iterations of the Egyptian Book of the Dead and bamboo strips containing the earliest version of the Dao De Jing.

You can see where I’m going with this.

Hell, I think you should go here and give what you can.

I am acting out of selfishness, you know.  Not only do I like hanging out at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop (and hold two awards from that fine institution), but I have a new book coming out in the early spring and I want to make sure the place is not only intact at that time but vibrant and that Ken Chen is smiling.

Official verbiage follows.  I’m quoted again, in case you can’t get enough of me:

19 June 2009

Dear Friend,

In the year since I took over as Executive Director of The Asian American Writers’ Workshop, one thing I’ve learned is: you are unique.

You are a reader at a time when most Americans no longer read for fun. You are the one who stay up past your bedtime, devouring stories and poems. And you’re not just any kind of reader. You are a reader of Asian American literature, even though less than one percent of books are written by Asian Americans.

We are writing you because you are the unique few who believe in the vision of the Workshop. We believe in nurturing writers of promise, whether they’re Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri, whose first book party we hosted, or a struggling young writer just graduating from high school. As novelist Ed Lin writes:

“Having grown up with the programs and the people of The Asian American Writers’ Workshop, I feel that they’re not only my family but indeed my homeland.  The Workshop helped me get my book published. It encourages a lifelong love of writing and reading.  It’s a crucial organization not only for our community, but for the ongoing global narrative as well.”

We believe in showing every American, no matter what the color of her skin, that the Asian American story is a central chapter of the American story. We are asking you to invest in our efforts to build a national home for Asian American ideas.

•    Last year, we hosted 30% more writers than we did in 2006 and 2007 combined. That’s more than 120 authors from nearly twenty ethnicities.

•    My first priority has been putting the Workshop’s house in order. We’re applying for a grant a week. We’ve recruited five new board members, started a young professionals group, and collaborated with 40 different organizations.

•    We’re laying the groundwork for the future. We’re working on a website overhaul that’ll turn aaww.org into a national intellectual center, oral storytelling workshops in Flushing and Brooklyn, and a revamped writer fellowship program with artist residencies at Yaddo and Beijing University.

Unfortunately, the Workshop faces a perfect storm that’s left us fighting for our survival.  While the recession has affected everyone, we were also hit with a lawsuit from our landlord, who sued to evict us for a more profitable tenant. We’ve successfully settled the suit, but find ourselves forced to start an emergency campaign to support the Workshop. Many of our stalwart funders still believe in the Workshop but find themselves with less money to give. So, just as the Workshop began as a grass-roots community of friends, we once again depend on you—the individual readers and writers who’ve made the Workshop what it is—to step in and nurture us.

Have you ever recognized yourself in an Asian American novel? Have you ever faced a blank page and mustered up the courage to write? Do you still read, when the majority of Americans choose not to? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I ask you to donate using the attached card or via aaww.org/donate. Our goal is to raise $130,000. If we do not meet this challenge, we will be forced to cut our programming, severely restrict our operations, and close our reading room. We’ve raised a fifth of this amount this month and we’ll reach our goal if you each donate at least $20.

We are so confident that the Workshop can survive these growing pains that we’re already planning for this winter’s Annual Asian American Literary Festival, which will be the only national festival of its kind. We want this to be a special celebration of your story, whether you’ve just landed at the shores of this country or if your family has lived here for generations. We want to be your Workshop. We seek to nurture anyone who has a story to tell.

You’re holding this letter because you believe that Asian Americans have something to offer American culture. Maybe you get our letters every year and each time you think, “I’ll just donate next year.” If you’ve ever had this thought, if you’ve ever wondered how you can help out, I ask you to donate now. And if you’ve donated before, think about whether you can contribute more in this hour of need. Donors who contribute $500 or more will be honored in the program for our Twelfth Annual Asian American Literary Awards.

Thank you,

Ken Chen
Executive Director

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