The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Photograph of Ryka Aoki

Ryka Aoki

Desert Nights, Rising Stars Faculty 2020

About Ryka Aoki

Ryka Aoki is the author of Seasonal Velocities, He Mele a Hilo and Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul. She has appeared in Vogue, Elle, Publisher’s Weekly, and the Huffington Post, and was honored by the California State Senate for “extraordinary commitment to the visibility and wellbeing of Transgender people.” She worked with the American Association of Hiroshima Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors, and two of her compositions were adopted as the organization’s official “songs of peace.” Aoki is also a former national judo champion and the founder of the International Transgender Martial Arts Alliance. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Cornell University and is professor of English at Santa Monica College.

Find Conference Sessions with Ryka Aoki

A Question of Dialect
Ryka Aoki

Saturday, February 22, 2020, 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Craft Talk, Presentation, Workshop
Genre: Mixed Genre

Writing in dialect or vernacular can be tricky. At its best, is can give one's writing an organic sense of place and perspective. When mishandled, however, dialect can offend readers, seem reductive, and cover lazy storytelling. This workshop covers dialect—why and how one might choose to incorporate it, the choices one has to make when using it, and how to self-check against exploitation and stereotyping.

In Translation: The Craft of Crossing Languages
Ryka Aoki, Alberto Álvaro Ríos, Laura Tohe, Ryan Greene, Claudia Nuñez de Ibieta

Saturday, February 22, 2020, 10:15 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Panel
Genre: Translation, World Literature

What is lost and what is gained in translating creative work on the page? How do we keep the spirit of the original written work even as the words change and the nuance is sometimes lost between cultures? Authors and translators Alberto Ríos, Laura Tohe, and Ryka Aoki speak to the intricacies of working with multiple languages as a translative art form.

More About Ryka Aoki

---. "The Woman of Water Dreams.Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul, 2015.

I’ve learned
we used to be healers.
I’ve learned
we used to be beloved.

Vigils, Birthdays, Vigils.

Don’t know
what else I’ve learned,
except we know
a lot of dead people.

Grathwohl, Mandy. "No Dust Here: An Interview with Ryka Aoki." The Matador Review  

TMR: What is your main goal when you write?

RA: ...At the end of the day, all of this has taught me -- in some ways it's a bitter lesson, but if I don't satisfy myself and if I don't work towards making myself a better individual, no one's really going to help me. And being trans, that's brought it even more, being a person of color, it's brought it even more, that the world's not built for me. I learned that right away.


Fitzpatrick, Cat. "Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul By Ryka Aoki." Lambda Literary Review, January 21, 2016.

It is through this complex grasping, not only of the minutiae of living, but of the minutiae of speaking, that these poems are able to talk about death and loss in the trans community without stooping to pity, without presenting our grief as an item for consumption. The details are heartbreaking, but the voice is unbroken.