Lantern Review: A Journal of Asian American Poetry

Issue 4 | Winter 2012

Community Voices

Student Work from
“Double Exposures: Documenting War at Home”

The poems and photographs that appear on the following pages, as well as the two color photographs ("Incense Sticks" and "Pomelo Peel") that appear earlier in the body of this issue, are the work of three young women—Jenny Lu, Kathy Tran, and Susan Li—who participated in “Double Exposures: Documenting War at Home,” an eight-week multi-ethnic, multimedia workshop that ran from June 11 to July 30, 2011 at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. The workshop focused on the experiences of Asian American girls, ages 14–18, who had been directly or indirectly affected by war. Through intensive poetry and photography workshops, “Double Exposures” provided these young and talented women with guidance and a community to help them document their family’s most important stories.

The classes took place on Saturdays. Students conducted family interviews, wrote poetry, went on field trips, and took photographs. Poets Tina Chang and Ishle Yi Park visited the workshop as guest speakers and answered the girls’ questions about writing on the difficult subject of war and family history. We visited New York’s Center for Book Arts and art galleries in Chelsea for inspiration in creating the final books and an exhibition of their photographs.

Maxine Hong Kingston has said that documenting experiences of war allows survivors to “tell [their] secrets, and nobody gets to interrupt [them] or argue against it, or nobody [can] say ‘I don’t believe you.’” By creating space to explore the aftermath of violence, “Double Exposures” sought to broach silences in households around war, chronicle the far-reaching effects of displacement in the lives of women, and encourage cross-cultural and generational dialogue around the lives of refugee women. “Double Exposures” sought to challenge the silencing of human testimony, particularly those of women, in the face of violence.