‘100% authentic fake:’ Corky Lee’s Asian America, with Ken Chen
On the late photographer’s protest imagery and the meaning and rise of Asian American literature
Hello from a D.C. hotel!
This week, our guest is Ken Chen, writer, professor, and former director of the Asian American Writers' Workshop (AAWW). We discuss [6:45] Ken’s recent piece for n+1, about photojournalist and activist Corky Lee and the deep histories of class, race, and violence woven into his work, centered in Manhattan’s Chinatown. [1:03:20] We also chat about writing, publishing, and Asian American literature as a social-realist project.
In this episode, we ask:
When does a photo achieve representation?
What if we thought of Corky not as a photojournalist, but as a durational artist?
Can an identity be created through accumulation and aspiration, even through economic shifts?
Why are there so many books by Asian Americans coming out now, compared to a few decades ago?
For more, see:
Repeat guest Hua Hsu on Maxine Hong Kingston, author of the classic novel, The Woman Warrior
Ryan Lee Wong on Corky Lee’s photos of protests against police brutality
And revisit these TTSG episodes:
Our book club with Lisa Hsiao Chen, wherein we discuss the work of performance artist Tehching Hsieh
Working-class unity, with organizer JoAnn Lum, the director of NMASS (the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops)
"I want you to care when people are still alive," with Yves Tong Nguyen of Red Canary Song
Our first-ever TTSG Movie Club is happening THIS FRIDAY, March 10th, at 8pm ET / 5pm PST! We’ll be watching "Better Luck Tomorrow," and you can join our TTSG Discord to attend the viewing by subscribing on Patreon or Substack.
Thanks for listening! As always, follow us on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter, and get in touch via email at email@example.com.