Memory and History, Nanjing Massacre

On November 28 and 29 we explored writings from the Nanjing Massacre of 1937 through two author readings, and a workshop.  All events were co-sponsored by the Year of China, American Studies, East Asian Studies, Literary Arts, and the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America.

Wing Tek Lum '68
Poetry Reading
November 28
3:00-4:30 PM
Petteruti Lounge
Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center
75 Waterman Street

Poet Wing Tek Lum, author of the National Book Award winning volume of poetry Expounding the Doubtful Points, will present a reading from his work The Nanjing Massacre: Poems, work that’s been 13 years in the making—-a harrowing and heartbreaking 70-poem series on the Nanjing Massacre of 1937.

Since 1997 Wing Tek Lum has been working on a series of poems (now totaling over 80 pieces) on the Nanjing Massacre—when Japan invaded China in 1937, ultimately capturing its capital and in six weeks wreaking havoc on its surrendering military defenders and civilian inhabitants alike.  Many of the poems depict what happened to the civilian victims, but some are written from the point of view of the Japanese invaders.  They mostly present individual vignettes, not only of the egregiously violent acts but also the subtle accommodations made by those who tried to survive.  There are poems that are based on specific recorded events, those that are inspired by specific writings, and then those that are essentially invented by me.  Hopefully, as a series this collection will still ring true as a cumulative testament to the immensity of this massacre. 

Wing Tek Lum '68 read his work about the Nanjing MassacreWing Tek Lum '68 read his work about the Nanjing Massacre

To see a full recording of Wing Tek Lum's reading, please visit Brown University on YouTube.

Related article:

Interview with Wing Tek Lum '68: "My Poems are a Description of a Slice of Time"

Ha Jin
Reading from Nanjing Requiem (October 2011)
November 28
Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Martinos Auditorium
154 Angell Street

Nanjing Requiem retells the story of Minnie Vautrin, the Dean of Jinling College, who earned in retrospect the title “Angel of Nanjing” for her role in transforming the Jinling campus into a refuge for some 10,000 Chinese as they sought to escape the invasion of the Imperial Japanese Army, an invasion that cost some 250,000 civilian lives, and became an iconic experience of brutality in war.

Born in China in 1956, Xuefei Jin (Ha Jin is his pen name) was a teenager when China entered the Cultural Revolution. He became a member of the People’s Liberation Army at the age of fourteen. His novel Waiting, which won him the National Book Award in 1999, and the PEN/ Faulkner in 2000, was based on his experiences during his five-year service in the Red Army. He was awarded the PEN/ Faulkner again in 2005 for War Trash. His more recent books are A Free Life (2007) and The Writer as Migrant (2008), a collection of lectures. A collection of short stories, A Good Fall, was published in November 2009.

Ha Jin read from his latest work at Brown University's Granoff CenterHa Jin read from his latest work at Brown University's Granoff Center

To view the full reading by Ha Jin, please visit Brown Univeristy on YouTube

Related articles:

Writer combines fiction and history

Ha Jin’s recovered memory of Americans in China

Hard Writing

Panelists Wing Tek Lum '68, Ha Jin, Prof. Beverly Haviland and Prof. Gayle Sato presented at the APMA workshopPanelists Wing Tek Lum '68, Ha Jin, Prof. Beverly Haviland and Prof. Gayle Sato presented at the APMA workshop

Cultural Production, Collective Catastrophe, Memory and History, Progress and Repair
An Asian-Pacific in the Making of the Americas (APMA) Workshop 
November 29 
10:00 AM - 1:00 PM
John Nicholas Brown Center Library
357 Benefit Street

The questions and problems of collective memory provoked a starting point for this workshop which engaged two authors who have focused attention on the Nanjing Massacre, a collective catastrophe whose memorial dimensions have been amplified in retrospect and intensified by images, photographs and first person accounts.

Joining the dialogue were scholars, novelists, and poets who considered from various angles the capacities for representation of large-scale atrocity.

Opening Remarks:
Ha Jin, author of Nanjing Requiem
Wing Tek Lum, author of The Nanjing Massacre: Poems

Forrest Gander, the Adele Kellenberg Seaver Professor of Literary Arts and Comparative Literature at Brown University, and author of Core Samples from the World.

Gayle Sato, Professor of English at Meiji University, Japan, and author of the forthcoming essay, “Bearing Witness through Auto/bio/graphy: Wing Tek Lum’s The Nanjing Massacre: Poems.”

Kerry Smith, Associate Professor of History at Brown University, and author of a prize-winning article on Japan's first "official" museum of the war years, “The Shōwa Hall: Memorializing Japan’s War at Home.”

Beverly Haviland, Senior Lecturer and Visiting Associate Professor, American Civilization.