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Artist to watch: Aimee Suzara launches first book, Souvenir

  • Poet, writer, performance artist mines her encounter with history
  • Uses art “as a type of social action”

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/NAMU WILLIAMS

OAKLAND, California — Writer and poet Aimee Suzara’s first book, Souvenir (WordTech Editions 2014) was launched at a book party on March 8, in time for International Women’s Day.

Souvenir follows a Filipino-American woman’s encounter with her history.  It begins with artifacts of the 1904 World’s Fair and her own migration to the Wild West.

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The party and book signing at SoleSpace featured poetry reading by Suzara and several guests. Similar events launching the book will take place on the West Coast.

Award-winning author Luis J. Rodriguez blurbs on the book cover that Suzara is “a deep chronicler of our hopes, dreams, pains, and future … we need these poems more than ever.”

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A social activist, Suzara is a lecturer in the Creative Writing and Social Action program at the California State University of Monterey. This summer she is coordinating a Social Action Writing course for CSU Summer Arts.

Book cover design by Marlon Sagana Ingram

As a professor, she offers years of experience in assisting budding writers to define themselves.  She wants to inspire others, youth and adults alike, through poetry and theatrical work.

Students praise Suzara’s teaching. “Aimee brings her authenticity and connection as a performer as she is transferring that knowledge and experience to her students.  Always embodying her art – I think this is what makes her a strong, vibrant instructor,” said a participant of one her workshops.

A well-versed speaker, she lectures on issues pertinent to topics her book and poems cover, always including a preamble of historical and cultural context for her audience.  Suzara passionately addresses topics like color, race, beauty standards, cultural connections, immigration and the myth of the melting pot, identity of politics and stereotypes as well as the craft of creative writing and writing from the body.

“I enjoy speaking with readers, students, audiences, and viewers — it brings me great joy and means that the conversation is happening,” Suzara said.  “When I enter classrooms and students have read my work, they’re able to ask me questions like ‘how does voice play out in your work?’ and I can then speak about the multiplicity of voices that I encountered as I did the archival research as well as the personal investigation into my personal history.”

Suzara aspires to bring about a change and stimulate society through her poetry and work in the performing arts.  She encourages other artists to reach for the same goal of addressing questions of gender, race and the human body.

“I consider my creative work to be a type of social action,” Suzara said. “It is crucial that art both moves people and provokes thought and the questioning of our responsibility in the world. Art should bring about discomfort, which leads to dialogue and eventually change.  We are all witnesses to historical atrocities and acts of oppression.  Art’s job then, is to communicate both beauty and ugliness.”

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As author Craig Santos Perez states on the book’s cover, “Aimee Suzara’s poetry flips the script to question the ethics of the imperial gaze.”

Poet and performer Aya de Leon attested, “Aimee Suzara writes and performs with an unhurried beauty, lyricism, and love of words that contains all of her urgency and fierceness as a woman of color.”

Moreover, Aimee’s work in writing and being a speaker gives her the opportunity to further express her concerns and thoughts of society.  Readings and performances are another source of self-expression for her.

“On a recent visit to a class taught by writer Rachelle Cruz in Riverside, for example, she and the students asked me ‘what haunts you?’ and this really sparked a provocative discussion.  I talked about how, when visiting the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, and facing the images and artifacts, I started to have dreams that even made their way into the poems.  And in conversing with my parents about their immigration, ghosts emerged there too.  It made for a lively talk about the source of our writing and how the subconscious sparks our imaginations.”

In addition to the Official Launch on March 8, San Francisco Bay Area residents can attend a co-launch with author Genny Lim on March 22.

Southern California residents can catch her at Tia Chucha on March 14 and Beyond Baroque Books on March 15.  More information on Aimee Suzara, her work, and book tour dates can be found on her website at www.aimeesuzara.net

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TAGS: Aimee Suzara, Art, Book launch, books, history, Immigration, literature, personal history, Poetry, Souvenir
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