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Approximately 20 students gathered last night in the cozy confines of the Adams House Upper Common Room to hear Sesshu Foster read from his book "City Terrace Field Manual."
Foster, who described his mother as Japanese-American and his father as Anglo, also discussed issues of identity for people of mixed race.
Foster characterized his book as a "mixed form of vignettes and prose poetry as opposed to a pure...narrative" about the East Los Angeles barrio of City Terrace in which he grew up.
Images of domestic violence, alcoholism, hunger and poverty pervaded the passages he read.
Tara I. Chang '99, co-cultural chair of the Asian American Association (AAA), said the fact that "the environment that he grew up in was very different from most Harvard students" made his reading especially valuable for students.
Foster said he avoids putting the issue of mixed race identity at the center of a book because it is "too complicated to deal with in a central way."
The fact that there is no "mixed race" category for books excludes Foster from some markets, he said.
"I think it is interesting to not be of a certain ethnicity but embrace it as a part of your own culture," said Jessica S. Martinez '98 who attended the reading.
During the question and answer period following the reading, Foster discussed the impacts, both negative and positive, of the Los Angeles riots following the "not guilty" verdict in the Rodney King beating trial in 1992.
He said the riots caused a truce between two gangs, the Bloods and the Crips, and in that way, benefited the community.
Foster's reading was the third in the "Rice and Reason" lecture series which is held every Thursday evening.
The name of the series is "sort of a takeoff on pizza and politics" said Grace Y. Shieh '99, co-president of AAA.
Other topics to be addressed in the series include immigration, gang violence, AIDS and sexuality.
Last night's meeting was sponsored by the Asian American Association and co-sponsored by the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural Race Relations, the Undergraduate Council, the Japan Society, HAPA and La Raza.
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