VOLUME 28 NO. 10 | FEBRUARY 28 - MARCH 6, 2009


Sharing voices of color through poetry and prose

Last updated 2-26-09 at 3:47 p.m.
At the 2008 Rainbow Bookfest on April 5, 2008, from left to right: writers Tsuguo Ikeda, Linda Beed, and an unknown book festival goer talk to to writers Steven Batts and Marcia Baker-Johnson.
Photo by Martha Ortiz

By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly

Asians can do more than just cook and dance and be good at math. In fact, many are talented writers and authors, and the Seattle Rainbow Bookfest showcases some of the greatest literary talents in the Northwest.

The seventh annual Seattle Rainbow Bookfest will be held at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Feb. 28. The public event goes from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; doors open at 10:45 a.m.

This is the second year that the book festival is organized and run by volunteers. It is the first organized effort in the United States that celebrates the important role that writers of color play in cross-cultural communications.

Belinda Chin, the event coordinator, started volunteering a few years ago. She was drawn to the concept of people of color empowering audiences through their literary work being presented on stage.

She also believes that Asian Americans can finally be publicly recognized for their literary skills. One of the goals of the event is to create a forum where the community can unite and share their thoughts. The concept of the Rainbow Bookfest introduces the richness of discovery that Asian Americans can share with one another.

Shin Yu Pai, a Taiwanese American author featured in this year’s book festival, says her writing is inspired by the reflection of her daily experiences such as taking walks around Green Lake. She feels that her greatest accomplishment and joy is being able to write.

“I’m pleased to be able to present my work to new audiences in Seattle,” Pai said.

Pai added that aspiring writers should “follow the thread of what interests you most and try to focus on the practice. … Look outside the discipline for inspiration.”

Another featured author, Indu Sundaresan, a Washington State Book Award recipient, will be reading from her new book, “In the Convent of Little Flowers.” She has participated in the book festival almost every year since its inception.

“I’ve watched it grow into a vital part of the greater Seattle community’s events. The Rainbow Bookfest is as intrinsic to what Seattle is and what it represents as Bumbershoot and the Space Needle are,” she said.

Sundaresan considers her family, who encouraged her to read and imagine, to be her biggest inspirational source and believes it is important to celebrate authors of color because it celebrates who Americans are.

“There’s a wonderful and diverse community here in the U.S., not found anywhere else in the world. And though we come from different backgrounds … we’re still assimilated enough to eventually have our disparate cultures a part of a mainstream whole,” she said.

The event is planned differently every year. Last year was the first year to have the event run by volunteers, and the transition required much discussion.

Chin said, “We (volunteers) needed to get closer to the writers to try and understand the purpose of the event.”
She also explained that in prior years, there was a planning committee that came up with a theme and they would invite writers to fill in the ideas for the event. But this year was going to be different. Instead of assigning a theme, writers wanted more influence in building the program. Therefore, a proposal form was sent out for the writers to choose what they wanted to present.

In other words, this year’s event is a result of writers’ offering their talents and contributing what they believe works for the mission.

Over the years, Chin feels that the mission and goals of the book festival has reached a broader field of writers of color. The volunteer committee is excited to have more Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Americans participate this year.

The event will also offer workshops, panels, readings, and writers’ tables designed to provide a forum and other resources to interested participants. (end)

Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center is located at 104 17th Ave. S., Seattle. For more information, visit www.rainbowbookfest.org.

Nina Huang can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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