Ken Chen on Counterculture, Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards, and More


Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—publishing reports, literary dispatches, academic announcements, and more—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today’s stories.

At n+1, Ken Chen considers the meaning of “counterculture” by drawing on film, his memories, and his experience as the longtime executive director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Chen describes how he came to understand counterculture as a praxis instead of a theory, and as a way of being among other people. “There is something about being marked as an ethnic person in this country that pushes one to find community at the margins. For me, a counterculture is a way of being together where that mark can be temporarily suspended and transmuted into a site of possibility.”

In a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Friday evening, the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation announced the finalists and winners of its 2019 Legacy Awards for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. This year’s winners are Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, May We Forever Stand by Imani Perry, and American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes. 

Two indie bookstores in the Twin Cities region have been collaborating on a series called Literature Lovers’ Night Out. Publishers Weekly checked in with Pamela Klinger-Horn, events coordinator at Excelsior Bay Books, and found out what has made the series so successful.

Courtney Maum talks to the Los Angeles Review of Books about her latest novel, Costalegre, and discusses initially keeping the project secret from friends, her agent, and her editor. “I’m not going to turn my back on that kind of publishing structure, but I do hope that I can continue to find pockets of privacy in which I can work on something that — at least while I am writing it — is intimately mine.” 

Hillary Kelly explains her addiction to Tana French novels, and analyzes how French has reinvented the mystery genre. (Vulture)

At the Rumpus, Preti Taneja interviews Maureen Freely and asks her about growing up in Istanbul, translating Orhan Pamuk, and maintaining imaginative freedom as a woman writer. 

Julia Armfield surveys the history of “body horror” in literature and notes how the female body is often represented as “an object both to be feared for and to fear.” (Millions)

In more horror writing news, Naomi Booth considers the popularity and power of eco-horror genre fiction. “When it really gets under the skin, eco-horror makes you feel the inescapable reality of climate catastrophe inside your body.” (New York Times)