On June 9, 2018, the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network (DVAN), in partnership with the Djerassi Resident Artists Program and the San Jose Museum of Art, hosted a ten-writer, three-panel discussions event, Creative Minds: Vietnamese Writers of the Diaspora. The event took place at the San Jose Museum of Art, to a sold-out audience.
Curated by Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Sympathizer, and DVAN moderators Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Lan Duong, and Anh Thang Dao, the event was a public dissemination for their “diasporic dialogues” project, which is compiling conversations between Vietnamese writers—this group hailing from four different continents—to be published as an anthology, Dialogues Across Borders: War and Race for Vietnamese Writers of the Diaspora.
Representing a variety of genres—fiction, poetry, comics, memoir, children’s literature—these writers spent a week together as fellows at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, where they engaged in dialogues about writing, race, war, trauma, inheritance, and publishing experiences in their various countries, comparing perspectives as Vietnamese writers whose paths have unfolded in both different and similar ways, in different geographies, across the diaspora.
At the Creative Minds event, the writers were presented in three panels, each moderated by one moderator, which fostered a discussion atmosphere that was both intimate and charged, as conversations ranged from sharing experiences of the writing life, to the political, to the philosophical, to the personal and present. The three panels, comprised of ten total writers and three academic/writer moderators, conveyed a sense of the diverse range of voices and perspectives existent in contemporary Vietnamese diasporic literature today, forty-plus years after the 1975 Fall of Saigon.
The three panels were arranged as follows, and video of each can be viewed via the SJMA Facebook Livestream links noted below:
Panel 3: Aimee Phan (Berkeley, California), Bao Phi (Minneapolis, Minnesota), and Viet Thanh Nguyen (Los Angeles, California); moderated by Isabelle Thuy Pelaud (San Francisco, California).
[Panel 3 video link]
Panel 2: (moderator: Anh Thang Dao) Nguyen Phan Que Mai, Hoa Nguyen, Dao Strom
Panel 3: (moderator: Isabelle Thuy Pelaud) Viet Thanh Nguyen, Aimee Phan, Bao Phi
*event photos (above) courtesy of Trùng Dương
*pre- and post-event photos (below) by Albert Yuen