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At Home in the World: New Directions in Writing from the Asia Pacific

Visions and Voices: The USC Arts & Humanities Initiative

Celebrate the arrival of Kaya Press at USC with award-winning authors Brian Castro (Australia), Sia Figiel (Samoa) and Shailja Patel (Kenya).

From South Asian Kenyans struggling under the threat of expulsion, to Samoan girls on the cusp of womanhood, to a word-obsessed multiracial Aussie piecing together his family’s past through fragments of letters and half-forgotten stories, the characters found in Kaya Press books are as provocative and nuanced as the writers who give them voice. Celebrate the arrival of Kaya Press at USC with readings and conversations with award-winning authors Brian Castro (Australia), Sia Figiel (Samoa) and Shailja Patel (Kenya). Performance meets poetry meets experimental fiction in this exploration of the creative forces behind the next wave of cutting-edge transnational literature from the Asian and Pacific Island diasporas.

About the Speakers

Brian Castro was born in Hong Kong in 1950 of Portuguese, Chinese and English parents, and arrived in Australia in 1961. His novels include Birds of Passage (1983), which shared the Australian/Vogel Literary Award; Double-Wolf (1991), winner of the Age Fiction Prize and the Victorian Premier’s Award for Fiction; After China (1992), which also won the Victorian Premier’s Award; and Stepper (1997), for which Castro received the National Book Council Banjo Award. Shanghai Dancing (republished by Kaya Press in the United States) won the Christina Stead Fiction Prize and the New South Wales Premier’s Book of the Year Award. Castro’s books have been translated into German and French. He is currently the chair of creative writing at the University of Adelaide.

Sia Figiel was born in Matautu Tai, Samoa, and grew up amid traditional Samoan singing and poetry, which heavily influenced her writing. An author of novels, plays and poetry, she has traveled extensively in Europe and the Pacific Islands and has had residencies at the University of Technology in Sydney, the East-West Center in Hawaii, the Pacific Writing Forum at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, and Logoipulotu College in Savaii. Figiel’s poetry won the Polynesian Literary Competition in 1994, and her first novel, Where We Once Belonged, was awarded the 1997 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Fiction, South East Asia/South Pacific region. Figiel’s work has been translated into French, German, Catalan, Danish, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Portuguese.

Shailja Patel was born and raised in Kenya, has lived in London and San Francisco, and now divides her time between Nairobi and Berkeley. She honed her poetic skills in performances that have received standing ovations throughout Europe, Africa and North America. She has been described by the Gulf Times as “the poetic equivalent of Arundhati Roy” and by CNN as “the face of globalization as a people-centered phenomenon of migration and exchange.” She has appeared on the BBC World Service, NPR and Al Jazeera, and her poems have been translated into 12 languages. She is a recipient of a Sundance Theatre Fellowship, the Fanny-Ann Eddy Poetry Award from IRNAfrica, the Voices of Our Nations Poetry Award, a Lambda Slam Championship and the Outwrite Poetry Prize.

Related Event

April 3, 12:30-2:30 p.m. Writing Workshops with Shailja Patel and Sia Figiel
Ronald Tutor Campus Center, Rooms 352 and 320A
Two intimate workshops will provide participants with the rare opportunity to work with talented artists Shailja Patel and Sia Figiel. “Bust outta your box” with Patel, who will teach you how to express your creative energy and perform your story or poem. Figiel will show you to weave your own stories using su’ifefiloi, the uniquely Samoan tradition of sewing garlands of flowers. Lunch will be served. Admission is free. Reservations required; RSVP to

Organized by Viet Nguyen (English and American Studies and Ethnicity), Sumun Pendakur (Asian Pacific American Student Services) and Sunyoung Lee (Kaya Press)