Gathering Taiwanese American Writers at AWP 2024: “I wish I had this community growing up.”

On Lunar New Year’s eve, we again gathered an expanding cohort of Taiwanese American changemakers in the literary world who’d convened in Kansas City for the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference (AWP). Our Year of the Dragon dinner was hosted at Chewology, led by recently James Beard semifinalist nominated-chef Katie Liu-Sung.

We were touched by Katie’s vision to bring Taiwan to Kansas City, where there are relatively fewer Asian Americans compared to coastal enclaves. When asked whether we were the largest gathering of Taiwanese Americans to descend upon Chewology, Katie’s answer was an immediate “yes.” (Though we certainly won’t be the last. Taiwanese Association of Kansas City – take note!)

Like other accomplished third-culture chefs of her culinary generation, Katie eschews arbitrary parameters around the “authenticity” of food to prioritize its meaning: to evoke, to gather, to teach and learn — and, of course, to leave you as full (of love) as possible. Her “Stray Cat” special menu is a curation of memories of, rather than strict recipes from, her homeland, and we delighted over innovations like “Buddha Jumps Over the Wall (Fotiaoqiang),” in which her take on the traditional Lunar New Year soup is to seal it within a bowl-sized dumpling. Responding to the roundtable conversation about writing from a liminal, lonely place, Katie added that “Stray Cat” paid homage to her own childhood nickname — “Little Cat” — and experience of feeling transnationally adrift, without the comfort of permanence.

As always, our favorite gatherings are full of conversations about community-building, dream-sharing, and creative work, interspersed with luminous storytelling about the food that makes us proud to be Taiwanese.

But what exactly makes us proud to be Taiwanese? And who gets to be proud to be Taiwanese? Who gets to be Taiwanese at all? We loved how each of our guests wrestle with an already-marginalized, politically-contested identity from complicated vantage points – like those of being multiracial, tokenized, or denied information, community, direction. We loved hearing about how each find the courage to ask the hardest questions and, in the absence of a satisfactory or clean answer, write their own responses. The work is what makes the identity compelling. Taiwaneseness is for those who reach for it.

We hope you all have the opportunity to read more from these writers, and even to follow in their footsteps. As I was reminded throughout the week, the business of publishing is not incongruent with the work of grassroots community-building. What one person accomplishes illuminates what is possible for everyone else; we hold each other up as proof, as “comps,” of what can be achieved if we (and our parents) are courageous enough. We are grateful to be here in this age, to document the flourishing Taiwanese American literary canon, to reflect on how far we’ve come in the last 20+ years of second-generation Taiwanese American community consciousness, and to dream for our future.

Read books from tonight’s featured authors!

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