REBECCA SOLNIT & KRISTINA WONG | ANITA MANNUR
Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books on feminism, western and urban history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering and walking, hope and catastrophe. A product of the California public education system from kindergarten to graduate school, she writes regularly for the Guardian and Lithub and serves on the board of the climate group Oil Change International. She became an aunt at the age of 18 and was endowed as “Historian Writer Shakedown Auntie” of the Auntie Sewing Squad last spring.
Kristina Wong is a performance artist, comedian and elected representative of Koreatown Los Angeles whose solo theater shows reflect issues of race, mental health, global economics, climate change, and democracy have been presented internationally. When the national tour of her show “Kristina Wong for Public Office” was sidelined by the pandemic, she took to sewing masks for frontline workers. Her new show is “Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord” unfolding throughout the current pandemic and chronicling her experiences of accidentally starting the “Shadow FEMA” that is the Auntie Sewing Squad. She’s developing the work as a New York Theater Workshop Artistic Instigator and as part of Center Theater Group’s Creative Cohort.
Anita Mannur is an associate professor of English at Miami University. Her teaching and research interests include Asian American literature and culture, South Asian diasporic literature and culture, transnational and diaspora studies, food studies, and gender studies. She is the author of Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture (2010) and co-editor of Theorizing Diaspora (2004) and Eating Asian America: A Reader (2013). Her third book, Intimate Eating Publics: Food and Forms and Radical Belonging, is forthcoming from Duke University Press.
A Short (But Meandering) History of the Auntie Sewing Squad by A.S.S. founder and Overlord Kristina Wong in conversation with Auntie Rebecca Solnit
In this conversation, we explore the creation and growth of the Aunty Sewing Squad as a mutual aid project. The A.S.S. is a national collective of volunteers of all gender who have turned our living rooms into “sweatshops” because of the failure of the Federal Government to provide proper PPE to essential workers and vulnerable communities. Our Aunties, Uncles, and non-binary volunteers give time and labor to make masks to stop the spread of Covid-19, specifically in the most vulnerable of communities with no access to masks. We believe in a system of community care and having a direct connection to our recipients. We share resources on patterns, fabric, and elastic. We pride our origins as a mostly WOC and QTNB* group that celebrate the ability of all our Aunties to rise up and become the real leaders in this crisis. (36:39)
The Unseen Labor of Aunties in Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox
In this presentation, I explore the figure of the queer-adjacent aunty in the 2014 film, The Lunchbox. Focusing on a subplot of the film that centers the intimacy among the film’s protagonist Ila and her unseen but loving upstairs aunty, I argue that the aunty is a vital figure in securing the happiness—beyond heteronormative bliss—of those who are part of their network of care. In reading the relationship between Ila and her neighbor, Deshpande Aunty, I argue that the invisible aunty who we hear, but do not see, speaks to the vitally important and undervalued labor that aunties do within the domestic space. By focusing on the aural, I argue that the film reminds us of the unseen work that aunties can do to transform the everyday. (10:37)