Craig Santos Perez, associate professor of English at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, will receive the prestigious American Book Award for his book of poems titled from unincorporated territory [guma’]. Perez teaches creative writing and Pacific literature in the Department of English, and also serves as an affiliate faculty member in the School of Pacific and Asian Studies and the Department of Political Science.
The American Book Awards, administered by the Before Columbus Foundation, were created to recognize outstanding literary achievement and excellence without any restrictions from America’s diverse literary community. They are bestowed upon writers by writers. Recipients range from well-known and established writers to under-recognized authors.
Perez joins an exclusive group of winners, which includes writers such as Toni Morrison, and is one of only 14 chosen to receive the award in 2015. Perez and his fellow writers will be honored on October 25 at the SFJAZZ Center in San Francisco.
Craig Santos Perez, a native Chamoru born and raised on the Pacific Island of Guåhan (Guam), migrated with his family to California in 1995, and did not return home until 15 years later. from unincorporated territory [guma’] emerges from the tension between arrival and departure to map the emotional and geographic cartographies of migration.
Featuring a variety of poetic forms (including lyric, narrative, documentary and conceptual poems, dramatic monologues and prose essays), the poet highlights the everyday struggles of staying connected to native origins and customs, while adjusting to new American cultures and terrains.
This collection draws attention to, and protests, the violent currents of colonialism and militarism currently threatening Guåhan, a U.S. territory since 1898 and a “strategic” location of U.S. geopolitical power in the Asia Pacific region. Drawing from history and politics, culture and family, from unincorporated territory [guma’] memorializes what the Chamoru people have lost through military occupation and out-migration, and insists that we must raise our voices to protect and defend what we have left of the places we call home.
Perez earned a BA in integrative studies from the University of Redlands, an MFA in creative writing from the University of San Francisco, and an MA in comparative ethnic studies from the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also completing his PhD.