I’m really happy to hear that Karen Tei Yamashita is a finalist for the National Book Award, for her novel, I Hotel. I went to her pre-release presentation at UCSC and dinner some months ago — what a great talk and reading she gave. Her characterization of Al Robles and some of the other Kearney St. manongs seemed right on the spot to me.
Several students walked out in the middle, probably because of some risque old Japanese porn cartoons that she projected on the screen (completely appropriate to the reading)! Way back in 1998 Carla Tejeda and I interviewed her in her home in Santa Cruz for Jouvert. What I remember most was our initial nervousness as grad students conducting our first published interview, her disarming and earthy sense of humor and irony that immediately put us at ease—and that great laugh! It all comes through in her books.