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Asian American Literature Festival that was canceled by the Smithsonian in 2023 to be revived

Organizers announced a festival celebrating Asian American literary works, canceled by the Smithsonian Institution last year, is making a return from Sept. 14-22 and will be spread out nationwide.

A festival celebrating Asian American literary works that was suddenly canceled last year by the Smithsonian Institution is getting resurrected, organizers announced Thursday.

The Asian American Literature Festival is making a return, the Asian American Literature Festival Collective said in a statement. It will take place Sept. 14-22 — but without the Smithsonian's help. And instead of only being in Washington, D.C., the in-person and virtual events will be spread out nationwide.


The Collective and several partner organizations have planned readings, salons, workshops and interactive installations. New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Seattle, Atlanta and Athens, Georgia, as well as Champaign, Illinois, will host events. There will also be gatherings in New Zealand and Australia.

A biannual event since 2017, the festival brings together writers, publishers and others across the Asian diaspora. It has traditionally been done in collaboration with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. Events were held at Washington sites like the National Portrait Gallery and the Library of Congress. But last year, a month before the August opening date, the Smithsonian announced it was calling it off.

Smithsonian officials told news outlets the cancellation was for "administrative/logistical reasons." It had nothing to do with festival content, which included books by transgender and nonbinary writers.

Cathy Linh Che, executive director of Kundiman, a nonprofit that elevates Asian American writers and readers, said the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center still owes organizers money.

"We would hope that the Smithsonian will show accountability and repair for their past harm, as a way of rebuilding the trust that they have broken," Che said in a statement.

In its own statement, the Smithsonian Institution said it has not ruled out one day collaborating on the festival again.

"We’re delighted to learn that an Asian American literary festival will take place later this year."

In response to allegations of outstanding debts, Smithsonian Institution officials said 48 people and three organizations were "paid honoraria" for work completed. Two other people offered to forgo payment, the officials said. Anyone who filled out necessary paperwork received payment, they added.

Writers and literary organizations set to converge say they were blindsided by the decision and left with financial losses.

Organizers say the new approach will allow more people from different communities to participate in the festivities.

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