Los Angeles as a transnational city was the topic at the second annual LAy of the Land Writer’s Conference held March 24 in the Marymount Institute on the Loyola Marymount University campus.
“Everyone talks about L.A. as a multiethnic, multicultural city, which it is, but [we] wanted to expand that conversation,” said Gail Wronsky, professor of English and co-coordinator of the conference. “L.A. is a transnational city – a city of the world more than of the nation in many ways. Our literary culture is one of the places where this is most evident.”
William Archila, Gabriela Jauregui and Meri Nana-Ama Danquah, read selected portions from their writings, shared how their work related to the theme of transnationalism and then held a brief dialogue with the audience.
Reading from his book “The Art of Exile,” Archila told the story of his family who fled El Salvador in 1980 because of the violent civil war. Returning to El Salvador in 1992, he came to a new realization of what is home. “I had changed. A whole new generation was living [in El Salvador]. But, I felt like I didn’t fit in [in L.A. either]. I felt like a foreigner everywhere I went,” Archila said. “Then I realized home was in my writing.”
Danquah, an immigrant from Ghana, revealed her journey of becoming an American. She explained the benefits of living in a transnational city and her affinity for L.A.
“I feel connected to all the cultures in L.A., even though they’re not mine … Each of these cultures is a part of me,” Danquah said. “It’s as if all the activists from each culture [around the world] came to L.A. to live. [For example], when you’re in Little Ethiopia, it’s like you’re really in Ethiopia.”
Jauregui read from her book of poems “Controlled Decay.” Born and raised in Mexico, Jauregui said that she never grappled with the question of home and identity that most immigrants face, but she related to the alienation that many L.A. inhabitants talk about.
“Language is a continuum of strangeness. And it’s beautiful...It creates estrangement and I want that to be a part of the reader’s experience,” Jauregui said.
LAy of the Land brings the literary community of Los Angeles together on LMU’s campus. The event was co-sponsored by the Graduate English Department, the Creative Writing Program, the Fletcher Jones Chair in Literature and Writing and the Marymount Institute for Faith, Culture and the Arts.
Posted March 29, 2010