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Ryka Aoki: What Dare I Say? Writing as a Queer, Trans, Woman of Color who lost friends to suicide, murder and AIDS, yet still dreams of warp drive, a great relationship, and playing a perfect Chopin Ballade

"As a trans woman of color, I write fully aware of expectations from readers, publishers, and even my own ethics, to create socially conscious narratives that affirm, question, or confess one’s truth. Yet, these expectations can limit and intimidate a writer, especially when one wants to write a speculative story, a subversive story, or even a story without the everyday gravitas of life in the margins. In this talk, I will discuss my own work, as well as the work of writers such as Imogen Binnie, Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison to explore the complications of writing for community while satisfying one’s own creative goals."

Ryka Aoki is a two-time Lambda Literary Award Finalist, the author of Seasonal Velocities, He Mele a Hilo (A Hilo Song) and Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul.  Ryka was named as one of “11 Trans Artists of Color You Should Know” by the Huffington Post.  Ryka was honored by the California State Senate for “extraordinary commitment to the visibility and well-being of Transgender people.”  She has MFA in Creative Writing from Cornell University and is the recipient of a University Award from the Academy of American Poets. She is a professor of English at Santa Monica College.  

In conjunction with Gender Liberation UMass, the Office of the Provost, the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center, Gender Studies at Mount Holyoke College and others, WGSS is organizing a Trans* Studies Speaker Series over this academic year.  This is the first event of four.   Save the dates of 12/1/2016, 3/1/2017 and 3/22/2017 and check our website or join our listserv by emailing