Brown Logo

The News Service
38 Brown Street / Box R
Providence RI 02912

401 863-2476
Fax 863-9595

Distributed October 28, 2003
Contact Mary Jo Curtis

International Writers Project hosts “Freedom to Write” Nov. 7-8

Brown will celebrate its new International Writers Project with a two-day event titled “Freedom to Write,” on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 7 and 8, 2003, in Starr Auditorium in MacMillan Hall. This series of readings and panel discussions will feature Iranian novelist Shahrnush Parsipur, the University’s first International Writing Fellow, along with Nigerian Nobel Prize Laureate Wole Soyinka, poet Kamau Brathwaite and others. The events are open to the public without charge.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Shahrnush Parsipur and Wole Soyinka know firsthand the hardship of being denied free speech; both were imprisoned in their native countries when their governments disapproved of their writing.


Shahrnush Parsipur
Appointed Brown University’s first International Writing Fellow, Shahrnush Parsipur was imprisoned four times by the Iranian government for her writing. She has been exiled from Iran, where all her works are banned, and now lives in the United States as a political refugee.

Now Parispur and Soyinka will share their experiences when Brown University presents “Freedom to Write,” a two-day series of readings and panel discussions celebrating Brown’s International Writers Project, on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 7 and 8, 2003, in MacMillan Hall’s Starr Auditorium. This event is free and open to the public.

The conference program will feature Parsipur, an Iranian novelist and Brown’s first International Writing Fellow, and Soyinka, a Nigerian writer and Nobel Prize Laureate, along with Caribbean poet Kamau Brathwaite. They will be joined by Joanne Leedom-Ackerman and Larry Siems, representatives of PEN, a global professional association of literary writers dedicated to promoting literature and protecting free expression whenever writers or their work are threatened.

The International Writers Project, funded by a grant from the William H. Donner Foundation, provides support for established creative writers – fiction writers, playwrights and poets – who find it difficult to practice free expression in their home countries. In addition to the “Freedom to Write” event, the International Writers Project will sponsor a special weeklong symposium on the work and culture of the current fellow, as well as an international literary series to address the global issues of human rights and free expression.

“The International Writers Project not only provides a crucial humanitarian service in rescuing writers from situations of repression, censorship and threats to life and liberty, but also fosters better international understanding among our own students and faculty, and above all to our writing students and faculty,” said novelist Robert Coover, adjunct professor of English and a project organizer. “We become introduced not only to individual international writers, but, by way of our visiting fellow, to entire national literatures with which we may be totally unfamiliar. ... It is an extraordinary educational opportunity.”

“Through this program, we appreciate and call attention to those courageous writers brave enough to risk their freedom for the sake of their beliefs,” said Rebecca Winsor of the Donner Foundation, a recent graduate of Brown. “Now more than ever, I believe young Americans must be exposed to the narratives of individuals – like Shahrnush Parsipur – who come from radically different backgrounds and cultural perspectives.”

The conference schedule includes the following:

Friday, Nov. 7

  • 4 p.m.
    Introduction of Shahrnush Parsipur, 2003-04 International Writing Program Fellow;
    Reading by Kamau Brathwaite
  • 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 8

  • 11 a.m.
    Panel discussion: “Speaking Each To Each: Narratives of Resistance”
    Kamau Brathwaite, Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, Shahrnush Parsipur, Larry Siems, Wole Soyinka, with moderator Robert Coover
  • 7:00 p.m.
    Performance: “Banned Words” – written and directed by Quiara Hudes and Deborah Stein; performed by students in the Graduate Program in Creative Writing
  • Keynote presentation: Wole Soyinka

All events will be in Starr Auditorium, MacMillan Hall, 167 Thayer St. For more information, call (401) 863-3260.

The conference is sponsored by the Brown Creative Writing Program and the Watson Institute for International Studies. It is funded by the William H. Donner Foundation, with assistance from the Charles K. Colver Lectureship and Publication Fund, the Contemporary Writers Series “Residence on Earth: Siege, Flight, Exile and Re-location,” and the Office of the President.

About the participants:

Shahrnush Parsipur, the author of eight works of fiction and a prison memoir, was imprisoned four times by the Iranian government for her writing, which challenged the country’s male-dominated social system and explored female sexuality. She is the author of The Dog and the Long Winter (1974), The Simple and Small Adventures of the Spirit of the Tree (1977), Touba and the Meaning of Night (1989) and Women Without Men (1989). Parsipur has been exiled from Iran, where all her works are banned. She now lives in the United States as a political refugee and is currently the 2003-04 International Writing Fellow at Brown.

Wole Soyinka – a playwright, poet, novelist, essayist and political activist – is regarded by many as one of Africa’s greatest writers. Twice imprisoned in his native Nigeria for his political activities and radio plays, Soyinka became the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (1986). Among his best known plays are Death and the King’s Horseman (1975) and A Play of Giants (1984); his novels include The Interpreters (1965), Isara (1988) and The Open Sore of A Continent, an impassioned examination of the political unrest in his homeland. He is currently Robert Woodruff Professor of Arts in Emory’s Department of African American Studies.

Kamau Brathwaite is a poet, playwright, critic and historian whose work explores the complexities of Caribbean heritage and its African origins. Born in Bridgetown, Barbados, in 1930, Brathwaite combines in his work the spoken word, modernist techniques, new spellings and rhythms borrowed from jazz and folk music to create what critics have called “a poetics of resistance as an antidote to personal and communal pain.” He taught history at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica for 30 years and is now a professor of comparative literature at New York University.

Joanne Leedom-Ackerman is a novelist, short story writer and journalist; her works of fiction include The Dark Path to the River and No Marble Angels. Leedom-Ackerman is a vice president of International PEN and serves on the board of Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, the International Center for Journalists, and the Chairman’s Advisory Council of the United States Institute of Peace. A former reporter for The Christian Science Monitor, she has won awards for her nonfiction and has published stories and essays in numerous books, magazines and periodicals.

Larry Siems is director of the Freedom to Write and international programs at PEN American Center. He is a poet and nonfiction writer and has written extensively on immigration and cross-cultural issues. His book, Between the Lines: Letters Between Undocumented Mexicans and Central Americans and their Families and Friends, was a finalist for the PEN award for nonfiction in 1993. His work with the undocumented community led to a position at Human Rights Watch, where he researched and co-wrote the America's Watch Report Brutally Unchecked: Human Rights Abuses Along the U.S.-Mexico Border.


News Service Home  |  Top of File  |  e-Subscribe  |  Brown Home Page