Verso editors Andrew Hsiao and Audrea Lim recently gave readings during the event “Into East River(s): Chinese / American Artists and Asian American Poets” at City University of New York. Both read from The Verso Book of Dissent.
Because The Verso Book of Dissent features writings and speeches from around the globe spanning centuries, some appearing in English for the first time, it wasn’t difficult for Hsiao and Lim to find choice selections to read for the event.
Hsiao went back to 1887 to channel “one of the greatest of great New York smart-asses,” Wong Chin Foo, affirming Wong’s designation by recounting the time Wong challenged anti-Chinese populist and Tea Party forebear Denis Kearney to a duel to the death, with chopsticks. Hsiao read from “Why Am I A Heathen,” Wong’s response to Christian attacks against Chinese immigrants:
Lim followed by reading an excerpt from the 1976 poem “The Answer,” by Chinese dissident and poet Bei Dao (incidentally the husband of former Verso NY director Gan Qi). “The Answer,” which was not published until a few years after the 1976 Tiananmen protests that inspired it, eventually became an anthem for Chinese pro-democracy protests. Lim preceded the English reading with a reading from the original Mandarin Chinese: