In the middle of the 1970’s Shawn Wong made two major decisions; to begin the Before Columbus Foundation and to remove himself from his California roots and form his future along the misty shores of Puget Sound, near the University of Washington. The Before Columbus Foundation, a group cofounded by Wong to develop multicultural literature, grew with the guidance and care of its lettered professionals. Wong and his group would later publish two anthologies, The Before Columbus Foundation Fiction Anthology and The Before Columbus Foundation Poetry Anthology. These publications honored the authors who had won the American Book Awards held by the Foundation beginning in 1980. Wong’s Foundation was a success; his reputation for boldness and creativity grew.
He sympathized with the Asian American youth in the San Francisco Bay area (the locale of Wong’s youth) who were searching for an identity. Wong grew intensely aware of his need to learn of his past to affirm his future. He attended San Francisco State University after graduating from high school across the bay in Berkeley. After two inspirational years, he returned to the Berkeley campus of the University of California to attain his B.A. in English. Three years later, in 1974, he earned his master’s degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University. The same year, he published the anthology of Asian American literature Aiiieeeee!, coedited with Frank Chin; the cover caricature of a screaming yellow man, the stereotypical Asian, offered Wong an icon for Asian American silence. Wong’s followed his first anthology with another, The Big Aiiieeeee!, despite...
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