Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Literary Tour for Freedom of Expression

Check out the following event, sponsored by PEN Canada and The Vancouver Readers & Writers Festival:

a literary tour for freedom of expression

Saturday, April 5th 7:30pm

Suggested Admission - $10

Advance Tickets (604) 689.0926

The Firehall Arts Centre,
280 East Cordova St

Featuring readings by
Jalal Barazanji Afua Cooper Hadani Ditmars & Sheng Xue

For more information contact:
Vancouver International Writers
Festival (604) 681-6330 or
PEN Canada www.penca

PEN Canada Launches Words Without Borders, A Cross Country Tour for Freedom of Expression

PEN Canada is taking its literary reading series Readers and Writers on
the road featuring an exciting line-up of established Canadian writers alongside members of PEN Canada's Writers in Exile Program. Words Without Borders features authors from around the world who bear witness, speak out, and write about both local and global political issues. The tour runs from April 3rd-5th in Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.

The five writers participating in the tour are David Davidar, head of
Penguin Canada, and author of The Solitude of Emperors; Afua Cooper, award-winning poet, author, and recording artist selected by Essence Magazine as one of 25 women who are shaping the world; Jalal Barzanji, a Kurdish writer and poet from Iraq who is now the City of Edmonton-PEN Canada writer in exile; and Sheng Xue, a poet, journalist, and member of PEN Canada's Writers in Exile Program who left China after Tiananmen Square.

In Vancouver, the tour will be
joined by Hadani Ditmars a journalist, photographer and author of Dancing in the No-Fly Zone.

Words Without Borders, Calgary
In Partnership with WordFest: Banff-Calgary International Writers Festival 403.294.7462 Thursday April 3rd 7:30pm, Ticket Price $10 (suggested admission) Central Library, John Dutton Theatre 616 Macleod Trail Southeast

Words Without Borders, Edmonton
In Partnership with LitFest 780.498.2500 Friday April 4th, 7:00 pm Ticket Price $10 (suggested admission) Sales at Tickets on the Square or 780.420.1757 Milner Library Theatre No.7 Churchill Square

Words With Out Borders, Vancouver
In Partnership with The Vancouver International Writers Festival 604.681 6330 Saturday, April 5th 7:30pm Ticket Price $10 (suggested admission) The Firehall Arts Centre, 280 East Cordova St Advance Tickets 604.689.0926 (*) David Davidar will not be participating in the Vancouver reading

Author Bios:

An ethnic Kurd from Iraq, Jalal Barzanji is a recognized poet and journalist who had a long literary career before he was forced to leave the country in 1998. He was imprisoned from 1986 to 1989 because of his writings. In Iraq, Barzanji edited several magazines and worked at many cultural organizations. He has published hundreds of articles and poems about human, cultural and women's rights. He has published six books of poetry and fiction: The Dawning Of The Evening Snow (1979, Jamour Publishing, Kurdistan of Iraq); Unwarm (1985, Rashid Publishing, Baghdad); War (1996, Gew Books, Kurdistan of Iraq); Holy Rain (2002, Kurdish Ministry of Culture); Memory of a Person Under the Wind (2006, Badrxan Pubisher, Kurdistan of Iraq) and On going back to Birth place (2007, Mnara, Kurdistan of Iraq). Barzanji served on the board of the Iraqi Kurdish Writers' Union and was executive director of the Culture Department of the Culture Ministry in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Since coming to Canada, Barzanji has continued to write and has published several volumes of poetry in Kurdish. Barzanji is currently PEN Writer in Exile in the City of Edmonton.

Afua Cooper is an eminent and award-winning author, historian, poet,
curator, performer, cultural worker, and recording artist. A recent winner of the Harry Jerome Award for Professional Excellence, Afua was also chosen by the editors of Essence Magazine (Oct. 2005) as one of the 25 women who are shaping the world. Her most recent history publication The Hanging of Angélique, The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montréal was nominated for the 2006 Governor-General's Award in non-fiction. Afua recently completed The Young Phillis Wheatley, a fictionalized account of the life and art of the eighteenth-century Black poet Phillis Wheatley, and the Young Henry Bibb, based on the early life of the Black North American antislavery advocate. Her poems have been anthologized in national and international publications, and translated in several languages. She has published five books of poetry including the award-winning Memories Have Tongue. Afua's newest book of poetry is Copper Woman. Also a dynamic and riveting performer, Afua has participated in numerous events across Canada, the Caribbean, the UK, the United States, and West Africa. Known as a proponent of the African-Caribbean poetry genre, Dub poetry, Afua has fused together the scribal, literary, musical, and performative aspects of that artfrom in her performances. Her first solo recording Sunshine is as collection of poems for children. Her latest poetry CD is Worlds of Fire: In Motion. Afua founded the Committee to Commemorate and Memorialize the Abolition of the Slave Trades (CMAST)

David Davidar was born in Kerala, India, in 1959. He is a graduate of
Madras University and Harvard, where he obtained a diploma in publishing. After working as a journalist and while still in his mid 20s, Davidar founded Penguin India with a budget of just US$10,000. The company published a mere six titles in 1987, but later became one of Asia's biggest publishing houses with revenues running into millions. Davidar's first novel, The House of Blue Mangoes, published in 2002, is a sweeping epic, which chronicles three generations who witness major events in the history of India. Not wanting to take advantage of his publishing connections, Davidar sent out the novel under a pseudonym, only coming clean when an agent expressed a wish to meet the author. The book was a critical success and has been translated into 16 languages. It was also a New York Times Notable Book in 2002. In 2004, Davidar transferred to Penguin Canada where he orchestrated a similarly remarkable turn-around in the company's fortunes. Authors that Davidar has published include Salman Rushdie, Kiran Desai, Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth, Rohinton Mistry, William Dalrymple, Shashi Tharoor, Philip Roth, Zadie Smith, Khaled Hosseini, Hisham Matar and Alice Munro. His new novel, The Solitude of Emperors, was released in September, 2007.

Journalist, author and photographer Hadani Ditmars' work examines the
human costs of sectarian strife as well as cultural resistance to war, occupation and embargo. Hadani's work, which has taken her to Beirut, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Zanzibar, Guatemala, Colombia, Egypt, Ireland, Indonesia, Italy, India, Jordan, Tunisia and Uzbekistan, has been published in the New York Times, the London Independent, The Globe and Mail, Newsweek, Time, Macleans and Ms. Magazine and broadcast on CBC and BBC radio and television. Hadani has been a regular CBC Radio's Dispatches contributor since the show's debut in 2001. She was also a regular current affairs commentator on Rogers OMNI television program The Standard. Her best selling book Dancing in the No Fly Zone (chosen by the Globe and Mail as one of 100 best and most influential books of 2005) recounts her time in Iraq from 1997 until the fall of 2003 and is one of the few recent books on the troubled nation that covers pre and post invasion reality. Hadani's next book focuses on her return to Israel/Palestine and Lebanon a decade and half after her first sojourns there.

Sheng Xue grew up in Beijing. She moved to Canada soon after the June 4th
Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. In 2000, she won the Canadian Association of Journalists Award for Investigative Journalism and the National Magazine Award, for an investigative report on the lives of Chinese boat refugees published in Maclean's magazine. In 2001, Sheng Xue investigated China's most prominent smuggling case and published a book (in Chinese), Unveiling the Yuan Hua Case (2001, Mirror Books, New York). China's Propaganda Ministry immediately banned the book. Sheng Xue has been writing poetry and prose for many years, over a hundred of which have been published. Sheng Xue's article, "The Unbearable Heaviness of Being", was collected in The Exiles Who Did Not Die (2005, INK Publishing Limited, Taiwan). The book collected thirty-nine articles of Chinese authors in exile. Her prose stories "The Bloody Morning" and "Light up a Candle Please" were collected in Poetry and Tank (2007, Chen Zhong Publishing House, Hong Kong). Sheng Xue is a member of the Editorial Board of June 4 Poetry, a collection of poems commemorating the June 4th Movement.

Me again. We sponsored a PEN Canada 'Writer's Chair' at SiWC in 2007 -- where a chair was prominently displayed to honour a writer who has been imprisoned for his work. PEN does a great job of trying to give those writers whose voices are denied them a place to be heard.


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