We’re Not Who You Think We Are

There is so much to say and share about this piece on the Lion’s Roarwebsite. These thoughts by author Chenxing Han resonated with me particularly.

It saddens me that many Asian Americans—myself included—are reluctant to “come out” as Buddhist. Sometimes this reluctance arises from a fear of being discriminated against or stereotyped. Sometimes it comes from a sense of inadequacy and inauthenticity when comparing ourselves to the white Buddhists who seem to be doing most of the defining in American Buddhism. Yet I am also reassured by a reminder from Alyssa, an interviewee whose Buddhist journey has taken her from a college meditation group on the East Coast to a Buddhist nunnery in China to various sanghas in her native Bay Area: even if they aren’t a trending topic on social media, Asian American Buddhists are everywhere.

You can read the full piece here.

Best Buddhist Writing 2010

One of my side projects includes tallying Asian writers. Specifically, I tally the bylines set aside to Asian writers in mainstream Buddhist publications. Early last year, I investigated The Best Buddhist Writing series and came away with the following three conclusions: Asians are underrepresented in the anthology (about 19 percent of authors), most of these Asian writers tended to be Tibetan, and the Asian authors reappear in the pages more frequently than their non-Asian counterparts (who make up a much larger, mostly white pool).

A few weeks back, I updated my “database” to include The Best Buddhist Writing for 2009 and 2010. Little surprise, the running average remains almost exactly the same, at 19.2 percent.

But I’ve been more interested in a different statistic. It turns out that the editors of The Best Buddhist Writing choose from a very small pool of Asian authors. Out of 163 authors who have ever appeared in its pages, a mere 21 have been Asian, accounting for 46 bylines. Now, the real shock came when I tried to answer the question: How many new Asian Authors join each year?

Over the past two years—none!

The number of Asian authors—those who had ever had their work published in The Best Buddhist Writing—increased each year until 2008, where it plateaued at 21. In 2009 and 2010, the Asian authors all had also been published in previous volumes. In contrast, the number of total writers keeps on growing, as new non-Asian authors continue to be added to the mix.

The Best Buddhist Writing 2010 is the newest edition and currently on the bookshelves. You can check out a very positive review at the Buddhist Blog.

Suggestions to the Editors

What can magazines like TheBigThree do to promote more Asian American writers? I have in the past provided some tentative suggestions, but my experience in the publishing world approaches nil. Fortunately, author 犀利士 g-their-work.html”>Claire Light today posted on her blog some very pertinent comments on the paucity of female and POC writers in literary magazines. (“Why Aren’t Women and POC Submitting Their Work?”) Claire Light has had a tremendous impact on how I see the world, from white privilege to use of the term hapa. Her thoughts here are, by and large, directly applicable to the editorial staffs of TheBigThree. Below are some suggestions from the end of her post about what these white folk can do to reach out effectively.

Archivist Note: Regrettably, the rest of this post was lost in transition to the new server.