Aunt Lute Celebrates 30 years: Unsung Voices

Aunt Lute Books was founded 30 years ago as an alternative press that would explicitly seek out and publish women authors who were not being represented by mainstream publishing. Therefore, some of the books we are most proud of include those that were, in some way, the first of their kind. Selections featured this week opened fresh avenues of expression, forged new genres, or put a name to something in women’s lives that was before unspoken. Books like Our Feet Walk the Sky opened inventive avenues of expression, forged new genres, or put a name to something in women’s lives that was before unspoken. From Babaylan, the first collection of Filipina short stories in the U.S., to Maidenhome, a collection from post-Cultural Revolution China, these Unsung Voices brought something entirely new to our readership. For the first week of our 30th anniversary celebration, we would like to honor these original texts not only for themselves, but also for the texts and traditions they made possible.

Our Feet Walk The Sky is featured in Unsung Voices for its innovation in not only being the first compilation to honor and hold light to the voices of women of the South Asian Diaspora in the United States, but also in arising directly out of a great need for visibility and consciousness-raising in regards to South Asian women’s lived experiences. Edited and compiled by the Women of South Asian Descent Collective based at UC Berkeley, the impetus for the project was set into motion out of conversations regarding lack of information on South Asian immigrants in the U.S., feelings of alienation and disenfranchisement, and a desire to reach out to other women of the South Asian Diaspora. Filled with short essays, poems, journal entries, and autobiographical prose, the 65 authors and editors of Our Feet Walk The Sky rejected the standards of traditional academic publishing. Holding true to the dialectical grammar and vocabularies of their communities and families, they focused their audience to those they truly wanted to reach the most—other women of the South Asian Diaspora.

The collection of short stories comprising Maidenhome were written at a compelling—and dangerous—period of time in China’s history. Ding Xiaoqi breaks free of the socialist realism enforced during the cultural revolution to present seven inventive, psychological stories about women’s lives, and to address long-suppressed topics including rape and adultery. This collection was Ding’s first to appear in the U.S., after which she co-founded Otherland, the first Chinese-language literary collection in Australia, providing a place for future Chinese writers to continue with the growing tradition of modern Chinese writing outside of China.

Babaylan was the first international collection of Filipina short stories published in the U.S. Although immigrant collections had been published before, each diaspora is as specific as the country being left, a new reflection on the challenges of code-switching, assimilation and loss, with unique aspects that remain undisclosed by other immigrant works. For this reason, Aunt Lute was especially proud to support new Filipina writers and uncover their literary progenitors in this groundbreaking work.

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