Alphabet City Tent (318 Sampsonia Way)
8 – 9:30 p.m.
Marking one very productive decade on Pittsburgh’s historic Northside, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh will host five exiled writers who hail from countries all around the globe, and who have all participated in the organization’s unique residency program: Huang Xiang (China), Horacio Castellanos Moya (El Salvador), Khet Mar (Burma), Israel Centeno (Venezuela) and Yaghoub Yadali (Iran). The five authors will read from their own books, and will be introduced by local cultural figures and celebrities.
A fiction writer from Iran, Yaghoub Yadali is City of Asylum’s newest writer-in-residence. Author of the short story collection Sketches in the Garden (1997) and the novel Adaab-e Bi-Gharari (The Rituals of Restlessness), which won the 2004 Golshiri Foundation Award, Yadali has directed for television and has worked as an editor for Roshd magazine.
One of the most important Venezuelan literary figures of the past 50 years, writer Israel Centeno is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the Federico Garcia Lorca Award in Spain and the National Council of Culture Award in Venezuela. Author of poetry, short stories and 10 novels, Centeno’s innovative literary works explore urban dystopias and controversial themes.
City of Asylum exiled writer-in-residence Khet Mar is a journalist, novelist, fiction writer and essayist, whose work has been translated into English and Japanese, broadcast on radio and adapted for film. Currently a broadcast journalist with Radio Free Asia, Mar also wrote the text displayed on the façade of “Pittsburgh-Burma House,” located at 324 Sampsonia Way, which serves as the new HQ of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh and Sampsonia Way Magazine, and also features visual art by Mar’s husband Than Htay.
Author of 10 novels, five short story collections and a book of essays, Horacio Castellanos Moya has worked for 20 years as a journalist in Mexico, Guatemala and Venezuela. Currently on the faculty at the University of Iowa, Moya has taught in the Writing Program at Pitt and was the recipient of a 2009 fellowship from the Japan Foundation.
Considered to be China’s pre-eminent post-cultural revolution poet, Huang Xiang faced imprisonment, persecution and torture before leaving his homeland. The first writer to be provided with sanctuary through City of Asylum/Pittsburgh (2004-2006), Huang created “House Poem” on the façade of 408 Sampsonia Way, published Pittsburgh Dream Nest Jotting, a book of Chinese-language essays exploring his experiences in Pittsburgh and collaborated with American painter William Rock on the “Century Mountain Project.”
Introducing the five featured writers will be Pittsburgh celebs, including writer Toi Dericotte, theatre artist Karla Boos (founder of Quantum Theatre), World Affairs Council CEO Dr. Steven E. Sokol, premier concert accordionist Henry Doktorski, and real estate professional Paul Johnson.
It’s been a busy first decade for City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, which provides sanctuary to writers exiled under threat of death, imprisonment or persecution in their native countries. The Northside-based nonprofit is currently working to transform a former Monterey Street nuisance bar into a community garden, and will open a first-of-its-kind literary arts center in a former Masonic Hall, as part of a major redevelopment project slated for North Avenue. Located adjacent to the Mattress Factory’s 1414 Gallery, the rehabbed property will be home to a multi-disciplinary literary arts center, bookstore and jazz club. In addition, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh hosts its annual signature Jazz-Poetry Concert and recently unveiled its Garden-to-Garden Trail public art installation.
Since its inception in 2004, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh has presented 250-plus authors and musicians from 42 countries during free readings and concerts. Its publishing arm, Sampsonia Way, specializes in banned books in translation and anthologies of contemporary writing from countries where free speech is under threat. Its online journal of free speech, literature and justice provides a virtual home for persecuted writers and serves a growing global audience online.