Just last Monday, as we were talking through our weekly staff meeting, I realized that the two undergraduate students from USC we’ve been working with since the beginning of this academic year, Anita Chen and Maggie Deagon, were both born in 1994, the same year that Kaya Press came into being 20 years ago. After the initial shock wore off, I realized – what better way to understand the passage of time than to see people who are the same age as the work we’ve been doing!
If we presume that the life span of a publishing company closely approximates that of a human being, then Kaya Press could be said to be entering into its period of precocious maturity.
Of course, the hope and expectation is that Kaya Press will actually outlive all of us. That is, after all, the great promise of books, and a major part of the glamour of publishing – that our efforts will outlast our time on this earth. But, as the rise and fall of publishers and indeed print media of all kinds have demonstrated, longevity is not to be taken for granted. It requires hard work, passion, but also a great deal of luck. And most of all, perhaps, a strong foundation. Not just ideologically, but organizationally and financially.
Since arriving here in Los Angeles three and a half years ago, that is exactly what we’ve been trying to build. This year finds us in a stronger position than ever before. In addition to Anita and Maggie, whose work has been invaluable, we’ve been lucky to continue to work with Managing Editor Neelanjana Banerjee, who has been tireless in her efforts for Kaya even though she’s about a week away from giving birth; board member Jean Ho, who has come on board to help us out with fundraising; and now Zoë Ruiz, our new Publicity & Marketing Associate. In addition, we’ve been working with undergraduates, some over multiple years, through the USC-affiliated student group, Kaya Students for Independent Publishing (KSIP). Just two weeks ago, KSIP hosted Unbound, their first ever on-campus pop-up bookstore and crafts fair.
If nothing else, this influx of energy and talent alone should give you a sense of how things have grown and changed for us this past year. But programmatically, we’ve had also a banner year, publishing Amarnath Ravva’s non-fiction prose and video meditation on the intersecting layers of histories, family, and faith, American Canyon, and Fox Drum Bebop, first-time novelist Gene Oishi’s inquiry into the lingering emotional, social, and psychological after-effects of WWII internment.
In honor of our 20th anniversary year, we hosted over 20 events throughout the year. Highlights include Mehfil Massive, a gala collaborative performance featuring nine South Asian diasporic poets and musicians, which attracted an audience of approximately 600 people, as well as our annual Indie Lit Lounge at the LA Times Festival of Books, where hundreds of people experienced the process of writing, editing, and publishing their own books, and visitors were able to sit on sofas talking to their favorite writers in an intimate, lounge-like setting.
Certain kinds of impact that we’ve had only become visible over time. This past October, Koon Woon’s second collection of poetry, Water Chasing Water, was awarded the prestigious American Book Award. We first published the work of Koon Woon, a largely self-taught writer who came to the US from Guangzhou when he was a child, in our first-ever book, the poetry anthology Premonitions. Twenty years later, we continue to be the proud publishers of his work, and his writing continues to be recognized at least in part because of our efforts.
At the Kaya Press reading at City Lights that took place this past spring, Amarnath Ravva, author of one of our most recent titles, American Canyon explained that he actually became inspired to become a writer when, as an undergraduate in college, he read R. Zamora Linmark’s Rolling the R’s, the second book we ever published.
Throughout these past 20 years, we have remained committed to the idea that, regardless of what other publishers, and even some writers, might think, great writing – and a vast range and variety of great writing – can consistently be found throughout the Asian and Pacific Islander diasporas.
Just as important is the idea that the world moves forward because of acts of imagination. The work any of us does to spark creativity – be it street art or music or film or, in the case of Kaya, publishing beautifully detailed and thought-provoking books that might otherwise never see the light of day – is thus critically important.
Kaya has been able to thrive over the years only because of people like you. People who read Kaya books, people who supported Kaya authors at readings and events, who donate time or resources, who remain interested and engaged and curious about what Kaya is going to do next.
Kaya Press might have provided the occasion, but you are the bricks that have created the building. We would never have survived without your input, your guidance, your enthusiasm, and your support.
With your continued participation and support, we look forward to 20 more years of publishing!
P.S. Once again, a tax-deductible donation in any amount will mean that your name will be printed in ALL of our books and listed on our newly redesigned website. For a tax-deductible donation of $250 or more, your name will be prominently featured as a Sustaining Member!