The story goes that the Asian American Writers’ Workshop (AAWW) first took shape in 1991 in a Greek diner in New York City’s East Village. AAWW’s co-founders Curtis Chin, Christina Chiu, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, and Bino A. Realuyo began meeting with other Asian American writers, all of whom were in search of a supportive community in the New York City literary world for writers of color. Together, they established AAWW as a not-for-profit organization in 1992 and published the first issue of The Asian Pacific American Journal, AAWW’s first print publication.
Within a year, AAWW began the national Poetry Caravan Series and launched the Van Lier Fellowship, which annually supported the work of three emerging Asian American writers. Among our Van Lier fellows were many celebrated writers at the beginning of their careers, including Cathy Park Hong, Lisa Ko, Tina Chang, Ava Chin, and Monique Truong.
By 1995, AAWW had moved into a permanent basement office space on St. Mark’s Place, where it operated a bookstore selling Asian American literature, and held its first live events. That year, AAWW launched our youth writing institute, CreateNow, to engage NYC high school students. And in 1996, we began our Small Press Division, which would go on to publish ten anthologies and a collection of poetry.
Throughout the late 1990s, AAWW expanded its scope and vision. The first Annual Asian American Literary Awards were presented in 1998. Winners of the Literary Awards have included Susan Choi, Ha Jin, Arthur Sze, and Chang Rae-Lee—writers who have helped define contemporary Asian American literature.
In the 2000s the AAWW moved twice, first to a space in Koreatown and then to Chelsea, our current home where we maintain offices, a reading room, and a public events space for the community. AAWW held three iterations of our Page Turner Festival, expanded our programming to include seniors, and re-ignited our fellowship program through The Margins and Open City Fellowships. We also moved our publishing initiatives online, where we have published our Whiting Literary Prize-winning magazine The Margins since 2012. In 2018, AAWW returned to its print publishing roots with the co-publication of a new anthology of Asian American literature, Go Home!, with the Feminist Press.
Today, AAWW provides a unique sanctuary space for Asian American writers. We continue to host live events in our space, offer fellowships for emerging writers, hold workshops for youth and seniors, and publish The Margins, our digital magazine. Read more about our current programs here.
Marie Myung-Ok Lee
Bino A. Realuyo