GARDENA — Members of Pacific Asian American Women Writers West — which began in 1976 as an informal gathering of writers, actresses and artists and evolved into a dynamic group of writers coming from a variety of backgrounds — read their poetry and prose and discussed their work on Jan. 20 at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute.
Standing, from left:
Diane Ujiiye, an activist and minister who recently completed her Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminar. She is a member of Asian American Pacific Islander Christians for Social Justice, a former chair of the California Commission on APIA Affairs, and outgoing executive director of APIsCAn, a statewide justice and policy nonprofit. She served 20 years with the Asian American Drug Abuse Program in South L.A. She is also a single mother of a 22-year-old son.
Miya Iwataki, a writer whose lifelong cultural and political activism is reflected in her poetry, radio programs and community projects. A columnist for The Rafu Shimpo, she has been host of “East Wind” on KPFK-FM, diversity/cultural competency program developer for Los Angeles County, a fighter for Japanese American redress, a delegate to the U.N. Decade for Women Convention in Nairobi, Kenya, and co-author of the first study on cultural barriers to women’s healthcare in API communities.
Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, award-winning author/editor of 20 books, including the novels “When the Rainbow Goddess Wept,” “The Newspaper Widow” and “Magdalena” and the short story collections “Vigan and Other Stories,” “Acapulco at Sunset and Other Stories” and “Woman with Horns and Other Stories.” She has received a California Arts Council Fellowship in Fiction, a Brody Arts Fund Award, a Special Recognition Award for her work dealing with Asian American youths, a Certificate of Recognition from the California State Senate, 21st District, a Filipinas Magazine Marts Award, and the Outstanding Individual Award from her birth city, Cebu, Philippines. She has lectured and performed at such venues as UCLA, USC, University of Connecticut, University of the Philippines, PEN, Beyond Baroque, and Shakespeare & Co. in Paris. Aside from writing and editing, she publishes fine literature under the imprint of Philippine Literary House.
Seated, from left:
Jude Narita, who has been writing acclaimed one-woman plays for 30 years, portraying Asian and Asian American women with humor, courage and fearless celebration. She created her plays, including “Coming Into Passion/Song for a Sansei” and “Stories Waiting to Be Told,” to show the human cost of wars that have raged in Asia for over a hundred years, and to correct stereotypical images of Asians in the media. She also portrayed Asian American women dealing with their identity and life in America. She has performed throughout the U.S. as well as in Canada, Vietnam and Singapore, and represented U.S. theater in Poland. Her film credits include “Slam Bam,” a short written and directed by her daughter, Darling Narita. She is acting president of PAAWWW.
Joyce Nako, an Oceanside-based poet and short story writer. In retirement, she is working on her first novel. She has hosted of a cable show on Asian American art and artists, and has presented kamishibai, storytelling for children. Her current passion is teaching writing to out-of-school adults.
Amy Uyematsu, a Sansei poet and teacher from Los Angeles. She has five published collections: “Basic Vocabulary” (2016), “The Yellow Door” (2015), “Stone Bow Prayer” (2005), “Nights of Fire, Nights of Rain” (1998), and “30 Miles from J-Town” (1992). She was co-editor of “Roots: An Asian American Reader” (UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 1971) and as a UCLA senior wrote “The Emergence of Yellow Power in Americas” (Gidra, 1970). She was a public high school math teacher for 32 years and currently leads a writing workshop at the Far East Lounge in Little Tokyo.
The panel was introduced by Debbie Mochidome of GVJCI.
Other notable PAAWWW members have included Sue Kunitomi Embrey, Emma Gee, Sumi Haru, Naomi Hirahara, Velina Hasu Houston, Momoko Iko, Chungmi Kim, Pamela Tom, Wakako Yamauchi and Akemi Kikumura Yano.
These and other members went on to major accomplishments and continue to have an impact on their civic and artistic community.
Photo by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo