Annie Tucker (2014 ALTA Fellow)

Annie TuckerAnnie Tucker is a native New Yorker who divided her early life between her passions of dancing and reading, using both movement and words to imagine and inhabit different ways of being in the world. The summer before her freshman year of college she took a Balinese dance class at a studio in lower Manhattan, and three years later, as an English major at Barnard College, decided to run away to Indonesia even though she did not yet speak a word of any of the country’s languages. Upon her return, she had picked up Bahasa Indonesia, fallen in with a band of local rockers in urban East Java, and travelled through the eastern islands of the archipelago on a hodgepodge caravan of rickety fishing boats, minibuses, and motorbikes, learning local dances and many colorful phrases in local dialects along the way.

More than ten years later, Annie has been repeatedly drawn back to the country for work, education, and research. She entered the PhD program at UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures in 2004 and did her doctoral fieldwork in Java and Bali, writing about the therapeutic application of traditional performing arts for children on the autism spectrum, while herself continuing to perform contemporary Indonesian choreography with the LA-based Sri Dance Company for many years. She began translating as a way to honor and share a small part of the vibrant Indonesian cultures she has been so enlivened by. Various projects over the years include portions of the Buginese epic poem I La Galigo, as research for a Robert Wilson theater production; reminiscences for the personal archive-cum-social history, Indonesia Art World by Dr. Melanie Setiawan; as well as fine art exhibit brochures, poems, essays, short stories, documentary film footage, and ethnographic material.

Annie is now finishing up her first major project in literary translation; Cantik Itu Luka, or Beauty is a Wound, the debut novel by the Sundanese writer Eka Kurniawan. Coming in just under 500 pages in the original Indonesian, this sprawling, satirical, and at times supernatural family saga tells the tragicomic story of a ravaged but vital nation. Annie is excited to be introducing a new audience to Kurniawan’s distinctive storytelling voice, which is inspired by classical drama, local legend, Indonesian horror, and masterworks of world literature. Gleefully skewering oppressive powers, Kurniawan’s work has been called “an insolence to be proud of,” standing out amidst the post-New Order blossoming of print culture and ushering in what promises to be a fertile era in the development of a national Indonesian literature.

Annie is also eagerly looking ahead to upcoming projects. These will include Kurniawan’s third novel, which explores a seamy underworld of contract killers and long-haul truckers; a historical novel by Ratih Kumala examining Indonesia’s disparate development through the fortune of a clove cigarette dynasty, and the culinary-themed short stories of Puthut EA, which evoke both intimate family ties and haunting memories of political violence via the longings and demands of the tongue.

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About Erica Mena

Erica Mena is a poet, translator, and book artist.
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