She Who Has No Master(s)

She Who Has No Master(s)

National, focused on arts/culture, serving Southeast Asians, Vietnamese womxn and nonbinary writers, Pan AAPI

About the Organization:

SWHNM centers creativity and care for Vietnamese and SE Asian diasporic womxn and nonbinary writers and artists through engaging in collaborative writing and art processes, and creating opportunities for cross-diasporic relationship-building. As a collective of Vietnamese and SE Asian writers, poets, performers, and scholars engaging with questions of diaspora, marginality, and refugee-immigrant subjectivity, we use our collaborative artistic practice to enact a poetics of engagement and a community of repair and possibility.

organizational budget

$0 - $50,000

existence for

6-10 years

The Issue:

A 2018 New York Times study of racial bias in literary publishing surprised even its own researchers: a stunning 95% of the 7,000+ books sampled in the study were written by white authors.
Too often when books by Asian American women writers are published, they are memoirs of arrival and successful integration, appeals for inclusion made to a white-readership that ultimately affirm–rather than assess, challenge or augment–American values.

Such exclusion is a profound human tragedy, particularly in the wake of the Anti-Asian rhetoric and violence sparked by Covid-19. This issue presents a double challenge for Vietnamese women and nonbinary writers, who are marginalized not only in American publishing at large, but also within Asian American (and our own Vietnamese American) literary circles that pay greater attention and offer more opportunities to Asian American male writers.

Art and literature are not only a means by which to humanize what may otherwise be a mere demographic, but literature allows voices and community to form around shared experience, by reflecting culture, history, and shared humanity. The lack of access/attention paid to Vietnamese women and nonbinary writers and artists is to the detriment of our societal understanding at large, but also especially impacts the health of SE Asian women/nonbinary individuals in particular, who suffer from alienation, isolation, invisibility, and a sense that our stories are not as important as those of others.

While it is not in our power to change the entire landscape of the American Publishing Industry, SWHNM’s activities serve to create a safe, equitable, collaborative community for Vietnamese womxn and nonbinary writers. We emphasize collaboration and care as practices that may support and foster the creative voices of Vietnamese and SE Asian womxn and nonbinary writers and artists.

The Solution:

SWHNM forges a path through such roadblocks by creating a nurturing space for collaborative art practices, and mentorship opportunities designed for and led by women and nonbinary artists of the Vietnamese and SE Asian diaspora. The centering of this perspective is important because in most educational settings the focus on subject matter and perspectives of women/nonbinary SE Asian diasporic women is marginalized, if not totally unaddressed. In creating educational spaces that center these viewpoints, we create a nourishing space in which aspiring writers can see themselves, explore, embrace their particularities, and create more expansively.

Launched in 2022, our first mentorship program awarded 4 tuition-free mentorship opportunities to Vietnamese and mixed-race Vietnamese women and nonbinary writers. Mentees received intensive one-on-one consultations from mentors, tailored to individual needs, with the program culminating in a public reading event showcasing the mentees reading with their mentors, hosted by The Poetry Project. We wish to continue our mentorship program annually as a tuition-free (or low cost) offering, in order to ensure accessibility for those who might not be able to afford a degree program. It is also important to us that we offer equitable pay to our mentors for their teaching labor.

We are also a collaborative arts collective. By emphasizing collectively-produced works, we seek to literally include community in our artwork — in contrast to the individualist focus of mainstream art and publishing philosophies. In doing so, we also suggest a way to think about gender as it unfolds within collective experience — interrogating the “feminine” experience through a diasporic lens. Including image-text works, video poems, photography, poetry-art installation, performance, chapbooks, literary translations, and interdisciplinary, multilingual, polyvocal works, we have published poetry in Poetry, BOMB, AJAR Journal, and performed at venues such as Black Mountain Institute, SF Asian Art Museum, San Jose Museum of Art, American Library in Paris, and others. We have exhibited poetry and visual art at George S. & Dolores Doré Eccles Art Gallery and in the Jade Wave Rising exhibit, curated by Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA).

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