Bleak House Books opened in February 2017, twenty years after the handover. In that year, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, established in 2007, celebrated our tenth anniversary.
However, the connection between Bleak House Books and Cha began only in 2018. And we were introduced by Louise Law 羅樂敏, the Executive Director of Spicy Fish Cultural Production Ltd. 水煮魚文化製作.
That is such a long time ago now, and I had nearly forgotten about this first exchange. But I should thank Louise for bringing Bleak House Books and Cha together.
Over the past few years, we held more than ten Cha events at Bleak House Books. Had other things not intervened in that time, the number might have been greater, but the events that we did organise here left a great impression on me, our speakers, and our audience members. We discussed poetry, world literature, translation, politics, freedom, Cantonese, and Hong Kong. To name a few of these events: “The Poet’s Obligations Toward Freedom”, “Poetry and Politics”, “Whiskey Effusion”, “Liu Xiaobo Elegies”, and “Tiananmen Thirty Years On”, which packed the bookshop.
I remember inviting Albert to speak at the first Hong Kong Studies symposium at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, on the topic of “The Neighbourhood”. At the symposium, Albert said something that shocked me.
Last year Tammy asked if we would host an event entitled Liu Xiaobo Elegies on behalf of the literary journal Cha and PEN Hong Kong. When she asked I said yes without giving it much thought. In my mind and being from the U.S., holding an event to commemorate the death of a well-known and important human rights activist and political prisoner is natural, appropriate and uncontroversial; much as if we were to hold an event at the bookshop to commemorate the death of Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, Jr.
Little did I know though that just hosting an event about someone who might be considered a critic of the Chinese Communist Party can call into question my own political loyalties—not that I have any to speak of—and that that would somehow make me a target.—Albert Wan, whose full talk can be read HERE.
I was shocked because I foolishly hadn’t expected that a literary reading at Bleak House Books might bring trouble to the shop. But despite these concerns, Albert and Bleak House Books have not stopped supporting Cha events, even if the topics might be considered “sensitive” by some. I am very, very grateful.
Albert, Jenny and everyone at Bleak House Books have always been very welcoming to us. We come here not just for the events, but also for the books, for the conversations, for the friendships, for the wonderful community, and for future memories. And tonight, we will, no doubt, create more memories.
Tammy Lai-Ming Ho hates going to Hong Kong island, but she used to hate going to Kowloon, once upon a time. She grew up in public housing, earned a PhD in London, and flew surreptitiously to Paris a number of times in the old days. She is the author of two books of poetry (Hula Hooping and Too Too Too Too), one book of prose poems (Her Name Upon the Strand) which she will say are stories, a “sci-fi” chapbook (An Extraterrestrial in Hong Kong), and an academic monograph (Neo-Victorian Cannibalism). She is also the editor-in-chief of Hong Kong’s first English-language online literary publication (Cha, at www.chajournal.blog and asiancha.com), a co-editor of the first academic journal devoted to Hong Kong (Hong Kong studies), and the English editor of Voice & Verse Poetry Magazine (聲韻詩刊). She is an Associate Professor of literature at Hong Kong Baptist University where she teaches courses she loves. She prefers many things to many, many, many other things. (Photograph of Tammy by Albert Wan, taken on Friday 17 September 2021 at Bleak House Books.) [Return to Table of Contents.]