The Tenderloin Museum is thrilled to collaborate with the Asian Art Museum on hosting a literary reading featuring renowned Vietnamese-American authors, Andrew Lam and Angie Chau. Both authors have written extensively about coming of age in San Francisco in the ‘80s through the lens of the Vietnamese immigrant experience. As members of the Diasporic Vietnamese Artist Network (DVAN), they have contributed to a body of work that gives voice to the immigrant experience in the Bay Area and beyond. Their personal narratives are in dialogue with the current special exhibition at the Tenderloin Museum, Voice of the Central City: The Tenderloin Times, 1977-94, which explores the history and impact of the Pulitzer Prize nominated, polyglot Tenderloin community newspaper.
Lam and Chau both grew up in San Francisco and are among the few Vietnamese-Americans who have translated their localized experience into fiction. Their stories often unfold in the space between states, between cultures, and between generations. They explore how writers can tap gritty, soul-deep truths to imbue highly specific, often unprecedented life experience with a universality. In a 2011 interview with Lam on KALW, Chau reflects that she seeks to portray “both the Vietnam side of things and what it means to be a person in the modern world who happens to have been from Vietnam trying to make it and find their way in this complicated, complex, messy urban environment of SF.”
This humanizing pursuit in Chau and Lam’s fiction is paralleled in the work of The Tenderloin Times, where Lam was a regular contributor. The space between fact and fiction is fruitful ground for negotiating identity; both of these authors possess decades-long perspective and insight that enables them to navigate this space with gripping narrative finesse. This reading will be the final piece of programming for Voice of the Central City: The Tenderloin Times, 1977-94, on view at the Tenderloin Museum through April 2018. Published in English, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Lao, the trailblazing neighborhood newspaper provided a vital service the Tenderloin’s Southeast Asian population during the pivotal years after the Fall of Saigon. Created in collaboration with community historian Sara Colm, this exhibition showcases extremely rare archival images, articles, and political cartoons documenting our vibrant community.
Join the Tenderloin Museum at the Asian Art Museum’s Education Studios (200 Larkin St.) for this special reading and discussion. Free with admission to the Asian Art Museum. Get tickets here.
Andrew Lam is the co-founder of New American Media and was a regular contributor to The Tenderloin Times. His work as an journalist and essayist has appeared in such publications as The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, and The Nation, and he received the PEN Open Book Award in 2006 for Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora. Birds of Paradise Lost is Lam’s third book and first collection of short stories, which centers around Vietnamese newcomers struggling to remake their lives in the San Francisco Bay Area after a long, painful exodus from Vietnam. His story, “Slingshot,” is about a young tom boy mourning the loss of her father and guarding her mother, a Tenderloin restaurateur, from potential suitors.
Angie Chau is the author of Quiet As They Come, a beautiful and at times brutal portrait of a people caught between two cultures. Set in San Francisco from the 1980s to the present day, this debut collection explores the lives of several families of Vietnamese immigrants as they struggle to adjust to life in their new country, often haunted by the memories and customs of their old lives in Vietnam. While some are able to survive and assimilate, others are crushed by the promise of the "American Dream." The Dallas Morning News states, “Angie Chau’s fine collection of stories does for immigrants from South Vietnam what Jhumpa Lahiri did for East Indians or Junot Diaz did for people from the Dominican Republic. She tells their truth.” Angie is a member of the San Francisco Writers' Grotto and currently calls the Bay Area home. She is at work on a novel.