City Cast

Smithsonian Literature Festival Chaotically Canceled

Susannah Broun
Susannah Broun
Posted on July 20
A person reading in front of a microphone at the Asian American Literature Festival, Washington, D.C.

Reading at the Asian American Literature Festival, Washington, D.C. (Slowking4/Wikimedia Commons)

The Smithsonian Institution’s Asian Pacific American Center abruptly canceled the Asian American Literature Festival weeks before it was scheduled. This year’s event was going to be the first since 2019 and was highly anticipated by the community.

Why did they cancel?

They cited “unforeseen circumstances,” but partners of the festival feel the cancellation may be rooted in censorship of trans and nonbinary Asian American voices.

Censorship controversy

Over 1,500 signatories supported an open letter condemning the decision to cancel. They wrote that the decision compounds violence against Asian American communities and is dismissive of their work.

The Smithsonian allegedly flagged the festival's trans programming as being too controversial. The event was canceled shortly after, raising “disturbing questions” for partners of the festival. Authors of the letter wrote they were “deeply troubled” by this.

What now?

The signatories request the resignation of the acting director of APAC and a promise to reschedule the festival in 2024. They also demanded to have a stand-alone Trans and Nonbinary Reading Room event this year.

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