Sahtu Press, One Year Later
“Happy First Year, Sahtu!”
Sahtu Press recently finished celebrating our first year of bringing Lao stories and Southeast Asian American voices to the community. It’s been an interesting and challenging journey for everyone involved.
As artists, we’ve been active professionally for well over 20 years, but as they say in the industry, you’re also only as good as your last book, and we’ve entered the field at a time when many consider the publishing industry to be in a state of free-fall. No one is really quite certain what works anymore.
Some of our big highlights from our first year included the release of poet Krysada Panusith Phounsiri’s first book of poetry and photography, Dance Among Elephants. His book finally began reaching readers just in time for the Lao New Year, and also the National Lao American Symposium and Writers Summit. We were also able to share it with scholars and fellow authors at the national Association for Asian American Studies conference. The community response to his work has been positive and overwhelming in many cities, such as Fresno, where we held a historic reading on May 30th.
We also sponsored our first booth at the Oakland Book Festival, and had a chance to see the exciting work of many of our other small press colleagues and community builders. But it was also clear to us how much ground we were breaking as the only booth with Lao American books and art to offer the community. We were honored to be a sponsor of the recent Legacies of War gathering in Berkeley, California to mark 40 years of the Lao diaspora and the 5th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on Cluster Munitions. Our art was also recently exhibited as part of the Laos in the House exhibition in Philadelphia and the Refuge of the InvisibLao exhibits in Minnesota, and even the Diversicon science fiction convention.
We came to a decision that there were also many other smaller, independent projects out there who were having a hard time reaching their audiences, too, so we’ve undertaken an effort to help many of those authors on a case-by-case basis. For example, we’ve been able to offer our readers a chance to get a copy of folklorist David Zander and Sunny Chanthanouvong’s Wolf and the Moon and other Lao Folktales which is very difficult to come by outside of Minnesota. We have also been able to share the work of Hmong poet Soul Vang’s To Live Here, a stunning collection full-length collection of verse that sets a wonderful precedent for their community. We were also able to offer rare copies of Sian One Sone Kong Ban Hao, a groundbreaking collection of songs from Laos in the 20th century that was transcribed into English, French, and Lao with a Western-style musical notation.
We’ve also begun preparation on several new projects, including Laomagination, and a follow-up to Nor Sanavongay’s A Sticky Mess, and several new authors we’ll be announcing later this month. In the meantime, please be sure to follow us on twitter at @Sahtupress and also on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SahtuPress.
With over 230,000 Lao rebuilding their lives in the US today, this is an extraordinary time for our community as we rebuild, learn, work and play, celebrating the many different possibilities of being Lao. We began this press looking for diverse voices, interesting ideas, and a chance to create exceptional opportunities. With your support, we’ve been able to do so, and we thank you for being a continuing part of that journey.
Cover Photo by Krysada Panusith Phounsiri