Publisher Profile: Kaya Press [in AsianWeek]
Sunyoung Lee and Juliana Koo make up the two-person office that is Kaya Press, a tiny, independent Asian/Asian Pacific American-focused, not-for-profit book publisher based in New York City. For Lee, who is the editor, and Koo, who is managing editor, Kaya is about love – love for APA literature, love for bringing words to life, love for working at something in which they believe wholeheartedly. And true love it is, because for the last three-and-a-half years, both have been working endless hours to keep Kaya Press alive – without pay.
“I bring this up not to evoke pity or to solicit funds,” says Lee, although they would never turn away a donation, “but because this state of affairs is in many ways a reflection of – and arguably a direct result of – the position that independent literary publishers occupy in the global economy today. Underfunded and understaffed, they are often, like Kaya, perched precariously on a narrow ledge of financial viability.”
Perched yet determined. Out of sheer will, Kaya plans to bring forth another six titles before the year is over: Beat Takeshi vs. Takeshi Kitano by Casio Abe, an overdue title coming in August; Aztex, a first novel by poet Sesshu Foster; Tomie’s Chair, a poetry collection by Josey Foo, inspired by an installation of the artist Tomie Arai; The Temperature of This Water by a young Korean American spoken word poet Ishle Yi Park; they who do not grieve, a follow-up to where we once belonged by Sia Figiel, the first published woman novelist from Samoa; and Maps of City and Body by Denise Uyehara, the first in a ground breaking series devoted to performance art.
“Kaya fills a void in the publishing world,” says Koo. “Kaya publishes books from an Asian American perspective – meaning not only do we publish books by Asian American writers, we publish books that Asian American readers will find engaging. We are not limited to publishing things that we think will serve a ‘general’ (read: white) audience, by profit margins or by editors whose ideal in an Asian American novel is the classic immigrant tragedy. We don’t find it necessary to market Asian American books with faux Chinese character typefaces and bamboo imagery. Our list provides a context for books that no general house can give.”