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Asian American Little Magazines
This site introduces readers to Asian American little magazines published between 1968 and 1974. This was a moment when a new Asian American literary movement was in the process of emergence, and young writers, some of whom would go on to become established figures, were first publishing their works in new magazines. Writers whose early works are described on this site include Lawson Inada, Janice Mirikitani, Frank Chin, Amy Uyematsu, Mike Murase, and Ron Tanaka, among many others.
To be clear, this is not a digital archive Asian American little magazines. Many of the works published in those magazines are likely still under copyright -- and in any case, there are other sites that operate as repositories for works published in those magazines (for a list of such repositories, see below).
We're choosing 1968 as a starting point because that is the year when, scholars claim, Yuji Ichioka coined the term "Asian American" to describe a shared sense of identity amongst Chinese-American, Japanese-American and Filipino-American communities. 1968 is also the year of the groundbreaking student strike at San Francisco State College -- which led to the creation of the first Ethnic studies departments at American universities. The next few years would see impressive activity amongst Asian American activists, students, and community members -- and the emergence of numerous independent publications on both the east and west coasts. Since 1974 is the year of the publication of a major anthology of Asian American literature, Aiiieeeee, 1974 seems like an appropriate endpoint for a narrowly focused archive like this one.
A "little magazine" is typically understood as an independent publication aimed at a niche audience. Our usage of the term borrows from substantial scholarly work in modernist studies on the role of the little magazine in early 20th century writing. Little magazines were crucial to the emergence of an avant-garde modernist movement in England and the U.S. Analogously, I believe important conversations were occurring amongst young Asian American writers during the period marked here. Rather than modernism, the outcome of their networking was the formation of an Asian American literary movement. Alongside documenting the actual magazines in question, this site aims to show the emergence of a network during the time period in question.
To be clear, these were by no means the only Asian American magazines being published at the time. Alongside the alternative publications showcased here were established magazines like Pacific Citizen, Kashu Mainichi, and Crossroads. Within the Japanese community, these were often operated and edited by the older generation (Nisei); the independent little magazine format was largely favored by the then-emergent third generation Japanese American community (Sansei).
This project has been greatly facilitated by several repositories of little magazine materials online, including:
the Gidra repository
the Aion repository
the Yellow Seeds repository
The journal Amerasia Journal was initially published as an academic journal by undergraduates at Yale University; its editors were in direct conversation with writers and editors who tended to publish in the other journals, so it will be considered here alongside the others. (Early issues of Amerasia Journal are available through academic journal providers.)
Magazines such as Bridge: the Asian-American Magazine can be found in the special collections of various research libraries, including some on the east coast. Magazines such as Rodan and Kalayaan International, tend to be more limited to West Coast collections.
Department of English
Gidra 1.2 (May 1969)
The second issue of Gidra leads with an article expressing triumphant outrage. S.I. Hayakawa, the Chancellor of San Francisco State College, had mentioned the new magazine in a speech given at Disneyland, describing it as "errant nonsense." Hayakawa positioned himself as the voice of a mainstream sensibility -- and was skeptical of any strong pan-ethnic or 'racial' solidarity rhetoric. The editors of the magazine interpreted his criticism as a form of validation.
The staff listed on the masthead for this issue reads as follows: Dinora Gil, Seigo Hayashi, Laura Ho, Mike Murase, James Okasaki, Tracy Okida, Colin Watanabe.
Table of contents:
- S.I. Rips Gidra! An almost gleeful response to S.I. Hayakawa's critique of Gidra.
- Pigs, Pickets & a Banana by Laura Ho. A journalistic account of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) event that occurred on April 26, 1969 at the Disneyland Hotel. Outside the hotel, radical students from UCLA, USC, and Cal State Long Beach distributed newsletters outside the hotel.
- Noguchi Hearing by S. Hayashi. An updated on the trial of Thomas Noguchi.
- The Oriental as a 'Middleman Minority' by Alan Nishio. A version of a critique of what we could today call the "Model Minority myth": 'The Oriental is a highly visible ethnic minority that has 'made 'it,' that is, he has worked hard and has not been a threat to the Establishment. As a result, Orientals are often used as a buffer by the Establishment in the confrontation between racial groups."
- Asian Center at UCLA. A brief unsigned account of the growing pains of the new Asian American Studies Center (part of the group of four American cultures Centers that were being developed by the university).
- Red Guard Party by Laura Ho. A journalistic account of the creation of a new political party in San Francisco's Chinatown. The Red Guard party was modeled on the Black Panther Party; some of its leaders would write for other Asian American Little Magazines, including Aion.
- UCLA Class on 'Orientals in America' by I.M. Yeh-Lo. Describes the new course being offered by Gidra editor Mike Murase, with Yuji Ichioka as the principal instructor.
- 1949 by Donna Hashiguchi
- The Descension by Kaoru
- Sister by Kaoru
The entire issue can be accessed at Densho Repository here: