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Aion Magazine (1970-1; San Francisco)
Aion Magazine only had two issues, but it had a lasting influence on the emergence of Asian American literature. It was edited by Janice Mirikitani, a writer a few years older than the editors of magazines like Gidra. Mirikitani was born in central California; her family had been interned during World War II and relocated to Chicago. She graduated from UCLA in the early 1960s and had briefly studied creative writing at San Francisco State College, suggesting numerous opportunities for finding links to the nascent Asian American Movement. Mirikatani would also go on to be involved with several important anthologies, including Third World Women (1972), Time to Greez!: Incantations from the Third World (1975), and Ayumi: A Japanese American Anthology (1980). Finally, it's worth mentioning that Mirikitani would go on to become an accomplished poet in her own right starting with her first book of poems, Awake in the River (1978).
Aion is unique amongst the publications depicted in this site in that it is the only magazine that is primarily presented as a literary magazine. (Indeed, several scholars have identified it as the first Asian American literary magazine). It is notable in part because it published early poems by writers like Lawson Inada, Sam Tagatac, Al Robles, George Leong, Alan Lau, Jeff Chang and Janice Mirikitani herself. In its second issue, Aion featured a number of poems by Francis Oka, the magazine's co-editor, who died tragically in a motorcycle accident before the issue could be printed. It also featured a short story by the pioneering Japanese American novelist Toshio Mori and one by Jeffrey Chan, a San Francisco State College professor who would go on to co-edit Aiiieeeee with Frank Chin and others.
Alongside poetry, Aion features political essays strongly oriented to the political discourse of the moment, with essays like "The Need for an United Asian American Front" by Alex Hing, and a Photographic Essay of life in San Francisco's Chinatown. Hing's essay names several important Bay Area organizations already moving towards Asian American Pan-Ethnic organizing, including the Asian-American Political Alliance (AAPA), the Inter-Collegiate Chinese for Social Action (ICSA), the Filipino-American Collegiate Endeavor (PACE), and the Red Guard.
Aion 1.1 (1970)
Aion 1.1 (1970)
The first issue of Aion appeared in the spring of 1971.
The editorial at the beginning of the issue is notable:
The dominant white society in America, by perpetuating its racist values, has insidiously created a cycle of self-hate between and within ethic groups.
As Asian Americans, we have been conditioned by stereotypes imposed upon us by the white middle class and have internalized the consequent insecurity and confusion. Dependency upon these values and standards has caused an absence of self-knowledge and its complementary fear and paralysis.
Our continued complacency within this racist society will bring about our cultural destruction. We must join the international movement to end the explotation of all Third World peoples and work to create our own revolutionary culture in this country.
We hope that AION will provide a forum for Asian American selfdefinition and expression on issues revelant to problems and needs of our communities.
Also notable is the list of dedicatees, which is obviously ironic and irreverent, including a number of famous racists: "General Elwell S. Otis, Eisako Sato, Ku Klux Klan, William Randolph Hearst, John Wayne, Chiang Kai Shek, FDR, 'Fat Jap' Agnew..." Critics have suggested this list might have been authored by Francis Oka.
It might also be worth mentioning the 'special thanks' page of the first issue. Several of the names mentioned are figures who would either be familiar from Gidra or from other venues, including Colin Watanabe and Isao Fujimoto (both from Gidra), Reverend A. Cecil Williams (leader of the Church Janice Mirikitani was also a member of; Janice Mirikitani's future husband), and Jeff Chan (future co-editor of Aiiieeeee!).
Annotated Table of Contents:
- The Need for an United Asian American Front, by Alex Hing. An activist call to action for the new Asian American movement. A key passage might be the following: "Because of the San Francisco Bay Area's political climate and because San Francisco's Chinatown is the largest Asian community outside of Asia, the Bay Area is the most logical place of a massive Asian-American movement to begin. In fact, the Bay Area has already made steps in that direction with the formation of the Asian-American Political Alliance (AAPA), the Inter-Collegiate Chinese for Social Action (ICSA), the Philipino-American College Endeavor (PACE) and the Red Guard" (10)
- "The Cell" by Francis Oka ("We spoke of politics -- / our love-making / a reflection / in revolutionary posters / hanging as spectres / on our bedroom wals.")
- Chinatown: A Photographic Essay (Text from “Report of the San Francisco Chinese Community Citizens’Survey & Fact Finding Committee”: Proj. Coordinator, A. Baccari, 1969)
- "Poem to the Alien / Native" by Janice Mirikitani
- Red Guard Program" by Red Guard Party
- "Interview with Alex Hing" by Neil Gotanda
- "Father of My Father" by Lawson Fusao Inada ("In Arkansas he staked a ragged garden. / Then that Colorado wind / eroded. / I flourished in that sand. / But what comes second-hand / is not the same.")
- "On the Containment of China" by R. Matsuda
- Illustration by Saichi Kawahara
- "A Chapter From Utopia" by Mushi. A short story with an erotic theme. The protagonist is a "novice" who is educated into an experimental sex/gender system that favors experimentation leading to "complete independence." While the intent appears to be sexual liberation for women, the story ends with a note that hints at sexual servitude.
- Graphic by Janice Ide
- "Snow on the River" by Liu Tsung Yuan. Translated by Gary Woo
- "We Ain’t Got Class" by H. Wong