An Interview with Emily Lawsin : Latina/o- and Filipina/o- American Poets Explore Cultural Mythologies

This Friday, April 10th at 7pm, La Sala is bringing to Seattle University’s Wyckoff Auditorium the presence and works of Latina/o and Filipina/o American poets as they explore cultural mythologies: their presence in our lives and how they shape us and end up in our work. On Friday night, we will see how these community activists and authors use their cultural heritage, influence, and history as a place from which to gain agency and create passionate works: the process by which many authors throughout history create activist literature. The event was curated by artistic director Robert Flor.

The diverse lineup features veteran poets/activists, University educators, as well as local newbies, including  internationally acclaimed Chicana activist and poet Lorna Dee Cervantes as well as SU’s own Dra. Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Roberto Ascalon, Jim Cantú, Sam Rodrick Roxas, and Seattle’s own Emily Lawsin, on leave as a Lecturer in Women’s Studies and American Culture at the University of Michigan. KXSU Radio had the opportunity to ask Prof. Lawsin about life as an Asian American, spoken word poet/activist, academic, a and “She-attle”-ite.

“I love Seattle. I actually call it SHE-attle because that’s how my parents said  it because of their accent.” Lawsin’s parents were highly involved in the Filipino American Community here in Seattle. She describes her work as rooted  in Pinayism, or Filipina-American feminism-a form of feminism that involves “gendered analysis of imperial trauma—the Philippines’ dual colonization by Spain and the United States and the articulation of Pinay [Filipina] resistance to imperialism’s lingering effects: colonial mentality, deracination, and self-alienation” (source) .

Lawsin’s parents, however, wished for her to pursue a degree in civil engineering. Eventually, she decided this route was not for her and her college advisor recommended she take some Asian American studies and creative writing classes that ended up changing her life.


“I strongly believe in the power of poetry and art for social change”, Lawsin said. She has been a community activist since her time as an undergrad and describes her work to be strongly influenced by that. Her writing focuses on issues of domestic violence, police brutality, or the intersections between race and gender.

Lawsin is firm in the belief of the service Universities owe their students as well as the communities that surround them. “When I was in college, I was the only Filipina American in my creative writing class. Now when I teach, there are more Asian Americans…and I find this inspiring…for me it shows change,” she said.

Think it’s worth skipping the Drag Show now? Come see Emily Lawsin, as well as other Filipina/o and Latina/o poets, share their work with us at Wyckoff Auditorium on Friday night at 7pm. The event will also take place at the Downtown Seattle Public Library on Saturday at 1pm.


Gabriel Ferri / KXSU Head Writer


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