Teaching Asian American Life Writing and Social Issues, Eleanor Ty
Recently Asian American life writing has become diverse in topic and style, using subgenres of illness memoirs, autographics, adoption stories, and food memoirs, and engaging with socio-cultural issues. In this short paper, I discuss the challenges of teaching two recent memoirs that go beyond personal liberation to raising social issues. Jenny Heijun Wills’ Older Sister: Not Necessarily Related (McClelland and Stewart (2019) reveals problems of transnational adoption, while Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Penguin 2019) shows the effects of refugee trauma and the opioid crisis.
Eleanor Ty, FRSC, Professor of English, Wilfrid Laurier University, Recent Books: Asianfail: Narratives of Disenchantment and the Model Minority (2017); Unfastened: Globality and Asian North American Narratives (2010). Co-editor, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies on Migration, Exile and Diaspora in Graphic Life Narratives (Spring 2020).
The Memoir-festo: Humanitarian Life Writing as the Authority to Narrate Global Poverty and its Solutions, David Jefferess
In this paper, I theorize the idea of the “humanitarian memoir-festo”, a genre of life narrative, that foregrounds the personal experience of humanitarians as the basis for justifying the argument that humanitarianism provides the only, or best, approach to alleviating suffering in the global South. Pointing to specific memoirs, biopics, and NGO appeals that are overtly positioned as pedagogical and persuasive, I examine how the act of noticing suffering comes to constitute the relation between those in need and those who can provide care.
David Jefferess is a settler-situated scholar living in unceded syilx territory. His research focuses on humanitarian discourse in the early 21st Century, specifically investigating the paradox of humanitarian as a post-racial sensibility that reinforces global racial capitalism.
Migrants at Home: Teaching Filipino Migrants’ Video Letters, Aristotle Atienza
Letters move, and it moves people. This paper reflects on teaching migration through life writing in the classroom. Specifically, it seeks to investigate what and how students left behind learn from migration by looking at short viral selfie video posts of overseas Filipino workers documenting tragic events in their working life abroad (even before and especially during the pandemic). Considered as both private and public, these intimate letters perform not only as cries for help that appeal for the state’s intervention to the abuses these migrants face but also as calls for reminder that problematizes personal emotion to national feeling.
Aristotle J. Atienza is Assistant Professor at the Ateneo de Manila University where he teaches art, literature, and popular culture. An active member of the Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle, he is currently finishing his dissertation in Philippine Studies from the University of the Philippines at Diliman.