Guest blogger Douglas S. Ishii writes about his first time at CAALS@ALA 2019. Dr. Ishii is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Writing, Literature, & Publishing at Emerson College. His scholarship has been published in Camera Obscura, American Quarterly, and the Journal of Asian American Studies, as well as the edited volumes Techno-Orientalism: Imagining Asia in Speculative Fiction, History, and Media (2015) and Global Asian American Popular Cultures (2016). He also serves on the CAALS Advisory Board.
I am not used to the ways of literary studies. While our preeminent conference, the MLA, gathers some amazing conversations, my ability to appreciate them is hampered by everyone’s frantic slate of interviews (or lack thereof). However, now that my tenure line is 100% literature, I had to find a conference that would bolster that part of my professional identity.
Enter the Circle for Asian American Literary Studies.
Organized by the indefatigable Mai-Linh K. Hong, whose writing inspired an essay of my own, and Caroline Kyungah Hong, a long-time co-conspirator of mine, CAALS has become one of the most organized internal units of the American Literature Association. With five panels across the conference, we had two days of conversations about the politics of writing and reading “Asian American” – an intellectual rejuvenation from my academic year of being “just diversity.”
My panel – The Dis-contents of Asian American Literary Form I, organized by Chris A. Eng and co-starring Christine Mok and Takeo Rivera – was an opportunity to workshop part of my chapter-in-progress. The room brought together a cohort of colleagues familiar with both the core questions of Asian American Studies and the literary texts up for discussion – a rare chance for real interlocutors. Over a month later, I am still working through Christine’s incredible reading of performance in Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book, and how to fit Timothy Yu’s buttressing of Janice Mirikitani into my Asian Am lit survey.
CAALS in essence curates a conference within the conference. The amazing team of Hong and Hong also hosted scheduled and impromptu social events, which made time to connect with colleagues in a different setting. After years of missed connections at AAAS, I finally got to sit down with Mai-Linh to talk about that SLAC life, and had a much-needed catch-up with Caroline. And so many new friends!
In sum, join us in San Diego in 2020! The Hongs will take care of you.