VIRTUAL: Live via Zoom
Tuesday, January 11, 7:30 PM ET
Cynthia Dewi Oka presents Fire Is Not a Country: Poems
In conversation with Jenny Zhang
Indonesian American poet Cynthia Dewi Oka joins Greenlight virtually to share her third collection of poems. Fire Is Not a Country renders a multivocal lyric portrait of Oka’s family that dives into the implications of being variously parents, children, workers, and unwanted human beings under the savage reign of global capitalism and resurgent nativism. In a voice that wrestles with multiple histories and temporalities, Oka’s poems track how the energies of migration, exploitation, patriarchal violation, and political repression shape and spar with familial love and obligation. For Greenlight’s first poetry event of 2022, we are delighted to welcome Oka in conversation with acclaimed poet and fiction writer Jenny Zhang (Sour Heart) for a conversation on craft, legacy, and writing to honor the unassimilable.
Cynthia Dewi Oka photo credit: Jose Quintana
In her third collection, Indonesian American poet Cynthia Dewi Oka dives into the implications of being parents, children, workers, and unwanted human beings under the savage reign of global capitalism and resurgent nativism. With a voice bound and wrestled apart by multiple histories, Fire Is Not a Country claims the spaces between here and there, then and now, us and not us.
Narrated by the daughters of Chinese immigrants who fled imperiled lives as artists back home only to struggle to stay afloat—dumpster diving for food and scamming Atlantic City casino buses to make a buck—these seven stories showcase Zhang’s compassion, moral courage, and a perverse sense of humor reminiscent of Portnoy’s Complaint. A darkly funny and intimate rendering of girlhood, Sour Heart examines what it means to belong to a family, to find your home, leave it, reject it, and return again.
Radiant and tender, My Baby First Birthday is a collection that examines innocence, asking us who gets to be loved and who has to deplete themselves just to survive. Jenny Zhang writes about accepting pain, about the way we fetishize womanhood and motherhood, and reduce women to their violations, traumas, and body parts.