The US-based foundation announced earlier this month that three local authors will receive $25,000 each — considered to be among the largest no-strings-attached grants available to writers. The fellowships will allow writers to concentrate on the creative process, focus on personal or professional development, expand their body of work and explore new directions.
Ricky Bogert, the grant programs officer at the Foundation who oversees the program said, “We are providing the financial support necessary to enable these authors to invest more time into their writing. This is a remarkable opportunity for them to accelerate their success in advancing their craft.”
An is a 26-year-old writer whose family immigrated to America in 1998. She was 3 years old when they left Saigon and resettled in Glendale, California. An is a Food, Arts, & Culture writer whose work has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, Eater, Catapult Magazine, Roads and Kingdoms, Taste and Bon Appétit, among other media. In addition, she is an editorial manager at Wethos Co. She earned an MFA at Emerson College and a BA at Sarah Lawrence College,
An writes about the difficulty assimilating as a member of the post “boat people” wave of immigration. She describes her work as at the intersection of Vietnamese-American identity, intergenerational trauma and pop culture. It explores themes of belonging, displacement and family.
“In terms of what drives my writing, when people hear that I’m Vietnamese, the first thing that comes to mind is the war,” An told The Providence Journal, acknowledging the war’s pivotal role for her family and many others.
“My family comes from trauma, but life also was joyful. In my writing, I include the joy and the humor. My mom is one of the funniest people I know. It’s a complexity I hope to introduce into my writing.”
An admitted that as a woman of color in the literary world, she had often felt isolated and had struggled to find community. “I plan to use the fellowship to dedicate more time towards making genuine connections with other writers of color and developing community locally within the Rhode Island literary landscape,” reads the RIF press release.
An also extended the celebration on her Twitter account saying: “Some news! I am most looking forward to putting this grant money towards building upon existing community/creating new pathways for writers of color in RI to learn, share, connect. [3 heart emojis] more to come soon!!! [pencil emoji]”
Some news! I am most looking forward to putting this grant money towards building upon existing community/creating new pathways for writers of color in RI to learn, share, connect. ♥️♥️♥️ more to come soon!!! ✏️ https://t.co/4kjADbgl1t— An Uong (@anuonganuong) February 14, 2022
An also plans to use the $25,000 grant to fill in a gap she and her partner, Elliot, experienced when they relocated to Providence in 2019.
“He grew up in Massachusetts, and we realized we were spending a lot of time in Providence,” An said in the same interview. “We chose [the city] because we really like it. It feels very intimate because it’s small, but there is so much going on in terms of food and arts and culture. We got here, got settled and then the pandemic made it more difficult to build community.”
With that in mind, An wants to allocate some of the fellowship fund to launch a community of female writers of color in Rhode Island — that includes holding events, providing services and the possibility of starting a literary magazine to be managed by the community.
Her mother’s folktales and her father’s stories about their childhood and time in Vietnam inspired An to explore the world of written words. When she went to Sarah Lawrence College in New York, she had her “first inkling” of writing as a career.
One of An’s most notable pieces was about McDonald’s and how the fast-food giant filled her family’s hunger for food and sense of belongingness. Through “In the Food Swamps of LA, McDonald’s Was Our Lifeboat,” the Vietnamese American writer was able to convey her poignant childhood story with humor and genuine honesty.