We hope you’ve found much to consider while reading Karen Tei Yamashita’s epic novel I Hotel. One of the novel’s strongest substantive, as opposed to formal or stylistic, innovations is its consideration of not only radical-leftist and Asian American thought but also third-world decolonial movements and Afro-Asian solidarity. Drawing from Bay Area and global history, Yamashita dramatizes the possibilities of broader solidarity and the sharp challenges of unification among different personalities and groups again and again in the novel, challenging us, as readers, to see our world differently.
One of the most iconic images of Afro-Asian solidarity is a photograph in Life magazine that depicts human rights activist Yuri Kochiyama cradling the head of Malcolm X as he dies from gunshot wounds. In Heartbeat of Struggle, Diane C. Fujino details Kochiyama’s biography, a trajectory from an all-American childhood in California to an adulthood full of fire for human rights activism. It is just one of Fujino’s essential works about the Asian American movement and the shaping of radical Asian thought alongside Black Power and third-world decolonial movements.
As part of her research, Fujino has closely considered Asian American activism in its nascency at San Francisco’s I Hotel during the decade chronicled in Yamashita’s novel. We are thrilled to announce that she will join Yamashita and host John Freeman to discuss I Hotel at our March 17 gathering.
Fujino is a professor of Asian American studies at UC Santa Barbara and the co–editor in chief of the Journal of Asian American Studies. She has long researched Asian American activism and is the author or coeditor of several books, including Heartbeat of Struggle, Contemporary Asian American Activism: Building Movements for Liberation, and Nisei Radicals: The Feminist Poetics and Transformative Ministry of Mitsuye Yamada and Michael Yasutake. As an activist-scholar, she supports political prisoners, cooperative economics, and efforts to bring ethnic studies into the high schools.
In Contemporary Asian American Activism, Fujino and her coeditor, Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, explain the importance of intergenerational mentorship and the remembering of movement histories: “Asian American activism today cannot be understood without tracing its roots to the Asian American Movement.” As you’ve seen this past month, I Hotel brims with memories and fragments, deftly transforming them and weaving together the political and the personal, while encouraging us, as readers, to regard ourselves as part of this tapestry of local and global history. Yamashita’s vision is deeply Californian, or at least it evokes the California I know, and perhaps one you know, too.
Invite a friend and pull up a chair to see a conversation that’s smart, engaged, and knowledgeable about the battle for the I Hotel, a battle that speaks to our era, a moment when many people across the country are trying to figure out how they might become more involved in fights for equality and fairness—while also seeking fiction that honestly and artistically plumbs even the more difficult truths of these struggles.•
Join us on March 17 at 5 p.m., when Yamashita will appear in conversation with Freeman and Fujino. As you read, please visit the Alta Clubhouse to discuss the important themes and innovative storytelling of I Hotel with your fellow California Book Club members.
CREATING A NEW IDENTITY
Lillian Howan, author of The Charm Buyers, writes about the shift in how Asian Americans perceived their identity before and after the activism of the late ’60s and early ’70s, as depicted in I Hotel. —Alta
FROM THE HEART
STYLISTIC AND THEMATIC DEPARTURES
CUSP OF ADULTHOOD
Alta books editor David L. Ulin writes about Jack Kerouac on the centenary of his birth. —Alta
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