"Introduction for Jessica Hagedorn"

Clifford Bersamira, Class of 2003, College of Arts and Sciences
October 22, 2002

The first time I came across the work of Jessica Hagedorn was two years ago in my Filipino American literature course on Colonialism and Culture. We were asked to read her 1990 novel, Dogeaters, which at the time, I knew nothing about except that it had a clever and comical title. While reading the novel, I couldn't help but feel a sort of stimulus overload from the clever use of fact, fiction, radio drama, and gossip to convey a story. I don't know how much you all know about the hybridity of Filipino culture, but this hodgepodge of ideas to tell a story just seemed to make sense.

Like her novel Dogeaters, Jessica Hagedorn herself has a cultural and artistic background that is both unconventional and "cohesively fragmented," compared to accepted standards. Born in the Philippines, to parents of mixed Filipino, European, and Chinese blood, she moved to San Francisco at the age of 14. Ms. Hagedorn began her literary and artistic career as a poet. Later, she took acting lessons which also influenced her to take interest in performing arts and multimedia work. She has also spent time as a lyricist to her own band, "The Gangster Choir." She has, since then, settled in New York City where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

In recent years, she has compiled an anthology of Asian American literature titled Charlie Chan is Dead. She has written a screenplay adaptation of Dogeaters. Her animated series, The Pink Palace, has also been featured on the Oxygen Network. Ms. Hagedorn has also released her second novel, The Gangster of Love, which is a semi-autobiographical novel about the coming of age of a Filipino woman in 60s, 70s, and 80s, America through the trials and tribulations with her band.

What I respect the most about Jessica Hagedorn is her bold creativity—her fusion of fact and fiction, colonized and colonizer. She is an experimentalist with her thoughts and stories.