Putting John Okada on the Seattle Literary Map

mapThanks to Seattle City of Literature, we’ve put John Okada on the map — the Seattle Literary Map

It’s with good reason that Seattle is one of two U.S. cities to be designated as a UNESCO City of Literature. Besides our active literary scene, it was the birthplace or home to some of America’s most notable writers, including the author of No-No Boy

The Seattle Literary Map features over 90 literary points of interest on the printed map and over 300 points of interest on the digital version, with fine artwork by Seattle artist Erin Shigaki. Erin Shigaki artwork of John OkadaMy thanks to Stesha Brandon of Seattle City of Literature for inviting me to serve as an advisor for this project, and for welcoming my suggestion to highlight the birthplace of Seattle native John Okada at the Merchants Hotel in Pioneer Square as one of the mapped locations.

Explore the interactive digital map here, or you can download a PDF of the map here. In Seattle, you can pick up a copy at your local indie bookstore or Seattle Public Library branch.

Seattle City of Literature rolled out the printed map just in time for distribution at the just-concluded Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference and Bookfair at the Seattle Convention Center. I’m told that 10,000 writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers of contemporary creative writing descended upon the venue, and Frank Abe and Audrey Fongmany passed by the Chin Music Press booth at the bookfair where I was able to hang out and engage with readers like Audrey Fong of Chapman University, one of the faces behind the Soapberry Review of Asian American literature. 

In advance of the conference, The Writer’s Chronicle, the magazine of AWP, profiled the Seattle City of Literature program in its February issue, and I was pleased to be able to support the cause — and work in a plug for Chin Music Press — with a quote for this article by Jason Gray. 

magazine pageIn the works right now is a literary map of the city, which will feature many of the city’s bookstores and historic literary points. A printed version of the map will be available, along with a more comprehensive digital version.

Seattle writer Frank Abe reflected on what made the city a natural fit for the designation. “It’s a place where you can discover a boutique publisher like Chin Music Press nestled in the arcade below the fish-tossers at Pike Place Market.”

Part of inclusion in the program is taking part in gatherings of other Creative Cities. Abe represented Seattle at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, presenting stories about the writer John Okada and his novel No-No Boy. “It was validating to share the experience of the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans on the same stage with storytellers from Ireland and Beirut,” Abe said.

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