A Clear Dawn edited by Paula Morris & Alison Wong.
A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand is edited by Alison Wong who grew up in Hawke’s Bay. Alison is visiting Napier Library on Thursday, June 3 to talk it through. We chat with Alison to get a sneak preview.
How did the book come about?
Dr Paula Morris convenes the masters in Creative Writing at the University of Auckland and found so much talent among her Asian masters and undergraduate students. Anthologies are a great way for emerging writers to be published and be ‘discovered’ so Paula asked me to join her in editing the first-ever anthology of Asian New Zealand poetry, fiction and memoir/creative nonfiction. Aotearoa is a nation not just of Māori and Pākehā, but of tangata whenua and tauiwi, which includes Pākehā, Asians and other people of colour.
Paula and I brought Māori and Asian and our own individual perspectives together with openness. We discussed and debated and listened to each other. We agreed on everything. I think we both learned from each other and the book is better for it. It was a huge amount of work, but enriching. We enjoyed very much working together. There are 75 diverse voices in there and I suspect there could have been more.
How did you curate the stories?
We selected ’emerging’ writers to allow more new voices to be heard. It wasn’t easy to define who was too established to be included, but at the time of selection they could not have published more than two full-length books of creative writing and they could not be considered too ‘established’ in another literary form such as playwriting.
Our criteria for selection were foremost literary quality but also diversity – diversity of voice, style, theme and setting, and diversity of the contributors themselves, ie, their ethnic, cultural and religious heritage(s), length of time that they and their families have lived in Aotearoa from early settlers through to newer migrants, age, gender, sexual orientation, geographic location and so on.
This is not a comprehensive anthology covering all bases – that’s an impossible task – but we did try to be inclusive. We selected work of writers whose craft and art we admired. We selected work that excited, challenged, surprised or charmed us, that made us laugh or sigh, think or feel, that took us into new worlds and perspectives.
It must have been difficult to fit it all in.
We would have liked to include many more writers – we stretched Auckland University Press on the length of the manuscript. The anthology is not comprehensive, that would be impossible. Writers came to our attention after the cut-off, some we invited did not submit. During the time it took to put together the book and for it to come out, some emerging writers developed and we would have included them if we had seen their more recent work.
Any locals to look out for?
Yes. Our Napier contributor, AL Ping, will be with us at the library event. We’ll leave it to him to tell you more.
■ The Details
What: Alison and AL Ping will be speaking about A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand
When: Thursday, June 3, 6pm
Where: Napier Library, 1 Tennyson St, Napier.
Info: Free event, all welcome, books on sale.