A Clear Dawn: New Asian voices from Aotearoa New Zealand, edited by Paula Morris and Alison Wong (Auckland University Press, 2021), 340pp., $49.99
The first thing I notice is the weight. This anthology of 75 Asian writers, the first significant assembly of our voices in Aotearoa, is a hefty tome. In my wondering hand it feels like a statement: we have arrived. The book is covered in a glorious silky matte fabric designed by Keely O’Shannessy, its depiction of sunlight falling on waves reminiscent of a Japanese woodblock print. Later I discover that the fabric wipes clean easily. Practicality and beauty in one: how very Asian.
But even the concept of ‘Asian’ and who is defined by this label is fraught. As the editors note in their introduction, it’s an imprecise term that doesn’t communicate the diversity and political complexity of the countries making up ‘Asia’ and yet, it’s a term that can be embraced by people of many backgrounds precisely because it is so waffly. Writers of East Asian, South Asian and Southeast Asian descent are included, as are Pacific, European and North American writers of Asian ancestry; missing are voices from Middle Eastern countries. It is clear that editors Paula Morris and Alison Wong set themselves a difficult task. As they note, all anthologies must have limits. [Read more…]