Whatcha Reading, Vivian Hua and Raya Leary?

Every week we ask an interesting figure what they're digging into. Have ideas who we should reach out to? Let it fly: info@seattlereviewofbooks.com. Want to read more? Check out the archives.

Our first ever two-fer, coming to you straight from the marvelous Northwest Film Forum!

Vivian Hua is the Executive Director of the Northwest Film Forum, named to the position last October. She's a filmmaker and writer, and co-founder of The Seventh Art Stand.

Raya Leary is Board President of the Northwest Film Forum, a writer, founding co-owner of Cold Cube Press, and Project Manager at Civilization.

Vivian Hua

What are you reading now?

Well, well, well, the pretentious art critic in me is a bit embarrassed to bust out the gate with the truth, but I'm reading Touching the Void, Joe Simpson's survival story from his near-death mountaineering trip. Perhaps what I find most fascinating is how the book has opened me up to a whole new world of terminology! I'd thought I liked ice because I went to Iceland in the winter and had my mind blown. Turns out I'm an ice baby! Now I'm crawling, learning about "flutings" and stuff!

What did you read last?

Two things.

Firstly, Emergent Strategy by Detroit mover-and-shaker adrienne maree brown. Inspired by Octavia Butler's work, Emergent Strategy combines movement work with esoteric knowledge, to provide a roadmap towards expansive community-building strategies. Profound when it is profound. Not when not.

Secondly, Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost, which is a series of poetic essays that unexpectedly threw me into the most righteous of writing frenzies; I spent days meandering blissfully through the backwoods of my mind in the most subconscious, fever haze daze of ways! Recommend!

What are you reading next?

A Chorus of Stones by Susan Griffin, if attempt #3 has anything to say about it! This book is a slow read… but considering how it compares the heavy weight of familial trauma to the silent, internalized knowledge of stones, which gradually store and release energetic histories over time… A Chorus of Stones contains themes which seem very resonant at this point in my truth-seeking adult life.

Raya Leary

What are you reading now?

I’m currently reading Politics of Design by Ruben Pater, which was given to me as a new year's gift from the owners of Civilization — a local design studio where I work as Project Manager. It’s a crash-course exploration of the cultural and political implications of design, proving the premise that design is never neutral, while offering opportunities for the reader to expand their visual literacy.

What did you read last?

I often listen to audiobooks because they’re so easy to enjoy while I’m riding on the train, or walking around town. The last one I “read” was Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson. She has a warm, rambling, personal, and utterly hilarious way of telling stories and providing cultural commentary. She’s incredible in the audio format because she’s a comedian who also hosts two podcast.

I’ve listened to both podcasts, read both books, watched her HBO specials and attended her live reading with Seattle Arts and Lectures. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is!

What are you reading next?

Any day now I should be getting a book in the mail written by a friend of mine, Mennlay Golokeh Aggrey, called The Art of Weed Butter. She’s a Liberian-American cannabis advocate living in Mexico City. I’m looking forward to (literally) ingesting her knowledge of weed butter/oil preparations, flavors, pairings and remedies for when you’ve gotten too high.

I’m also awaiting the release of Notes From a Black Woman’s Diary in early February. It’s a posthumous multi-genre collection from Kathleen Collins, a writer, playwright, author, filmmaker and educator who was little-known in her lifetime. I first encountered her after watching her 1982 feature film Losing Ground. I then read the first posthumous collection What Ever Happened to Interracial Love. It was the only fiction work I’d read, possibly ever in my life, that felt intimate, experimental, cinematic, close to my own practice as a writer, and relatable to my experience in the world — I imagine this one will be no different.