The Asian American Literary Review

The Asian American Literary Review is a space for writers who consider the designation “Asian American” a fruitful starting point for artistic vision and community. In showcasing the work of established and emerging writers, the journal aims to incubate dialogues and, just as importantly, open those dialogues to regional, national, and international audiences of all constituencies. It selects work that is, as Marianne Moore once put it, “an expression of our needs…[and] feeling, modified by the writer’s moral and technical insights.”

Published biannually, AALR features fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, comic art, interviews, and book reviews. Discover Nikkei will feature selected stories from their issues.

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From Gently to Nagasaki - Part 1

Marjorie Chan and I sat in the teal blue armchairs in my apartment nibbling rice crackers and sipping green tea. I’d seen her harrowing play, A Nanking Winter, a few months earlier. It addressed one of the roots of the ongoing animosity between China and Japan—the deep historical traumas of Nanking, 1937.

When we began the conversation, we were simply two writers, one young, one old, one of Chinese ancestry, one of Japanese, and from our great distance of time and space, we were far from The Rape of Nanking. Here in 21st century Canada, we could be ...

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The Orient Express - Part 2

>>> Read Part 1

Why am I here? That’s a good question. I could say it’s the conference I’m attending, the one for H.R.s and diversity management, a few credits that might provide my stalled academic career with a few more options. Or I could say I needed to get out of Chi-town for a while, haven’t had a break like this from the family and missus for, well, I can’t really remember. I’m a good J.A. boy, someone had to be; though early on, for a while, I seemed in the ...

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The Orient Express - Part 1

It’s the middle of the desert, and I’m surrounded by a lush and verdant rainforest, a jungle unlike any on earth. Palm trees tower above me. At my feet a lagoon meanders through the orchids and bromeliads and birds of paradise. The crash of a waterfall, cascading with furious force. Mist drifts through like a swirling visible breeze, condensing on a rainbow of tropical flowers. Above me spires a hundred foot high Plexiglas dome, the type of pod our forebears might end up living within, given the way we treat this planet like our own play pit to ...

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Poems: "Spark," "Distances" & "All day people poured into Asano Park"


Use room-temperature water, never ice. Skin holds heat,
you think you’re more burned than you are.
Your singed hair crimps and smells like eggs
that once cooked on the farmhouse’s old gas stove.
Bathwater runs faster than a sink’s, you kneel
to turn your face under the tub’s faucet.
If you’d followed directions, you’d be
in the pasture instead, palming sugar to the horses.

Which sent you reeling back, the oven’s flash
or pressure, the heat or fear? Obaasan fell forward
but that was different, that was a great wind, that was ...

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Poems: "Conversation with My Mother" & "Translation"

Conversation with My Mother

How much fabric was left?
         Not much. Boro-boro, Obaasan said. Shreds.

And your mother recognized her by the fabric

If the fabric was in shreds, she was almost naked?
         No, she wore white cotton undergarments.

And they still covered her body?
         They covered her body.

They weren’t torn like her blouse and pants?
         They covered her body.

What did the pattern of the fabric look like?
         I don’t remember, but it couldn’t have been beautiful.
         The emperor forbade decorative dress during the war.

So the pattern wasn’t pretty, not mountain peaks ...

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