What does it take to make a book? Inspiration, yes, hard work, yes, and of course a lot of elbow grease. But the key element is people. People to write, people to read, and people to make those books possible. Reading might be a solitary pursuit, but what it takes to put that book out there is a constellation of well-wishers, supporters, accomplices. In short, people who not just care but make that care tangible in very real ways.
In this day and age, with gratification becoming ever more instantaneous, it’s becoming harder and harder to perceive just how much of a collective effort the birth of even a single book actually takes.
For this reason, this year, we want to celebrate the vision and acumen of Kaya and DVAN Advisory Board member Stephen CuUnjieng. Before he was a successful investment banker and philanthropist, before getting degrees in law and then in business, Stephen CuUnjieng was a reader of books. That’s probably the quickest and easiest way to understand how he came up with the idea of his landmark $100,000 donation to Kaya Press and Diasporic Vietnamese Artist Network (DVAN). The longer story involves a budding friendship with Pulitzer-prize winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen (one that began long before any prizes were awarded), exquisite literary taste, and a dealmaker’s canny instincts about what it actually takes to make things happen in the world.
Thanks to Stephen’s generous donation, we will be kicking off Kaya’s next 25 years of publishing with an exciting joint initiative with the Diasporic Vietnamese Artist Network (DVAN). Founded in 2007, DVAN has been at the forefront of developing the kinds of collaborative efforts that underlie all artistic creation, from literature to the visual arts to music. This new initiative will join Kaya’s award-winning publishing expertise together with DVAN’s extensive artist and creative networks in a range of projects that seek to present and disseminate groundbreaking voices from across the Vietnamese diaspora.
With his gift, which includes a $25K match to commemorate Kaya’s 25th Anniversary and DVAN’s new affiliation with San Francisco State, Stephen CuUnjieng has already managed to kickstart a process whereby we’ve been able to engage more of our supporters than ever before.