The Asian American Literary Review

The Asian American Literary Review is a space for writers who consider the designation “Asian American” a fruitful starting point for artistic vision and community. In showcasing the work of established and emerging writers, the journal aims to incubate dialogues and, just as importantly, open those dialogues to regional, national, and international audiences of all constituencies. It selects work that is, as Marianne Moore once put it, “an expression of our needs…[and] feeling, modified by the writer’s moral and technical insights.”

Published biannually, AALR features fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, comic art, interviews, and book reviews. Discover Nikkei will feature selected stories from their issues.

Visit their website for more information and to subscribe to the publication:

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Poems: "Conversation with My Mother" & "Translation"

Conversation with My Mother

How much fabric was left?
         Not much. Boro-boro, Obaasan said. Shreds.

And your mother recognized her by the fabric

If the fabric was in shreds, she was almost naked?
         No, she wore white cotton undergarments.

And they still covered her body?
         They covered her body.

They weren’t torn like her blouse and pants?
         They covered her body.

What did the pattern of the fabric look like?
         I don’t remember, but it couldn’t have been beautiful.
         The emperor forbade decorative dress during the war.

So the pattern wasn’t …

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Poem: "The Leaf Book"

The Leaf Book

In the fall of third grade, when my teacher
assigns the leaf-book project—collect
and name at least a dozen tree leaves—
my dad drives our family to an arboretum,
he brings a field guide and we’re all leaf-picking,
all saying gingko, chestnut, walnut, buckeye.
Mama writes down American names,
learns too that rootbeer-scented sassafras bear
three kinds of leaves: mittens, gloves, and palms.

The night before my book’s due, he stays up.
He helps sort leaf after leaf, irons them
between waxpaper pages he’s cut.
By the circular light of a lamp
he grows younger and I …

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Karen Tei Yamashita - Part 1

I flew out to California on 12 November 2009 to interview Karen Tei Yamashita on the eve of the publication of I Hotel, her newest work. We began the day in conversation over lunch, moved to a more formal interview conducted at her home, and ended with dinner. What appears here is an edited version of our conversations, constructed from a recording and my notes, and refined thereafter by both of us. What this text fails to capture is the graciousness and generosity of time and engagement that Yamashita showed throughout this process. She speaks of the “purposeful generosity …

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Compartment Comportment - Part 3

>> Part 2

It was not for lifestyle reasons that we weren’t married. Even today, I’m unsure as to what the holdup really was all about, though I know it has something to do with the nemesis of all modern and sophisticated women who outwardly abhor Kate Hudson’s latest bridal film while hoping to cement a relationship as “committed.” Why did I never issue an ultimatum? He was beautiful, smart and kind and I loved him and he gave me plenty of space and time to work out my “writing thing” which past boyfriends, hungry to cement their lifestyles as …

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Compartment Comportment - Part 2

>> Part 1

Mark Twain once said: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” But the question of what you do and don’t reveal in public is very much at the heart of what it means to be in Japan, where social rules are shared and where you can anticipate most people’s responses. It is not illegal in Japan, for example, for a landlord to evict a tenant for homosexuality alone. Nor would such an act surprise anyone.

In a 2009 Japan Times article, Masao Kashiwazaki, a human rights activist, said: “As long as you’re quiet, …

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