The 2019-20 Asian American Studies Lecture Series launched on Wednesday, October 2, 2019 with readings by Elaine Castillo and Jessica Hagedorn. The event marked the start of Filipino American History Month.
Castillo read a new essay from a collection in progress. Hagedorn opened by reading, as a poem, a song from her recent musical, Felix Starro, which she wrote adapting a short story by Filipino American writer Lysley Tenorio. She then read from her novel Dogeaters, voicing the words of United States President William McKinley, and following former First Lady of the Philippines Imelda Marcos through a dream. Marcos “seems to have been forgotten,” Hagedorn said. “But do not forget her because there are many to come after her.”
Hagedorn said that, in the Philippines since the regime of Ferdinand Marcos, “Everything has changed but nothing is different.”
To close, she read short sections from her novel Toxicology.
Assistant Professor of English and American Studies Paul Nadal introduced Castillo and Hagedorn. Nadal quoted Castillo’s forward to a recent Penguin reprint of Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart, that “Critical reading is a civic act” that “asks you to be both sharp and vulnerable to the world of the book and the world the book emerges from.”
Referring to the theme of the 2019-20 lecture series, “Celebrating New Asian American Writing,” Nadal said, “renaissance is the right word” to describe the works and voices that the series highlights.
After the readings, Nadal moderated conversation between Castillo, Hagedorn, and an audience of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff. A reception followed. Labyrinth Books staffed a table with Castillo and Hagedorn’s books, and Castillo and Hagedorn signed books and spoke one-on-one with members of the audience.
The next event in the lecture series is on Wednesday, November 6, 2019 in the Donald G. Drapkin Studio (floorplan PDF) in the Lewis Arts Complex. Ken Chen and Sally Wen Mao read and discuss. A reception follows.