Past Events

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Click the links in the listings below to see video and read about our events and writers.

Salon Readings

  • Jan. 8, 2014: David Harris-Gershon (USA) 
  • . The “Moth” Storyhour Grand Slam winner read from his memoir, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?

    David Harris-Gershon and his wife, Jamie, moved to Jerusalem full of hope. Then, in the midst of a historic cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians, a bomb shrieked through Hebrew University’s cafeteria. Jamie was hurled across the room, her body burned and sliced with shrapnel; the friends sitting next to her were instantly killed. David was desperate for answers—why now? why here? why my wife? But when a doctor handed him some shrapnel removed from Jamie’s body, he refused to accept that this bit of metal made him “one of us”—another traumatized victim who would never be able to move on. Instead, he dug into Israeli government records to uncover what triggered the attack, then returned to East Jerusalem to meet the terrorist and his family. Part memoir, part political thriller, part exposé of the conduct of the peace process, this fearless debut confronts the personal costs of the Middle East conflict—and reveals the human capacity for recovery and reconciliation, no matter the circumstance.

    “A harrowing experience… becomes a potent lesson for personal growth… [Harris-Gershon’s] honesty and humility give the memoir historical context, and ultimately elevate his story from the individual to the universal.” —Time Out New York

    “Fierce… A tale of redemption and new beginnings and of truly embracing the other. Harris-Gershon’s story is not really about Middle East politics so much as it is a story of healing—a debate about whether South African–style reconciliation and restorative dialogue can really bring about closure after an event of unspeakable pain and violence.” —Slate
    “Brave and impressive.” —Guardian

  • Jan. 31, 2014: Book launch: Generation Zero: An Anthology of New Cuban Fiction. Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (Cuba)
  • On Jan. 31, SampsoniaWay.org released its first-ever print publication: Generation Zero – an Anthology of New Cuban Fiction.

    This collection of 16 short stories, selected by Havana-based Cuban writer and Sampsonia Way columnist Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, includes works by “post-Fidel” writers in English translation, never before published outside of Cuba. Books will be available for sale at the event.

    This compilation of short stories might well say more about Cuba’s reality than most news reports. Some of the island’s best emerging writers reach outside Cuba through their work – even as we look in – sometimes with depth, sometimes with irreverence but always with great punch.” - Juan O. Tamayo, Miami Herald (USA)

    “Cubans no longer speak the same language…In Generation Year Zero, sarcasm, deterritorialization, transvestism,fragmentation, colloquialism, hybridization, adventure, and imagination are redesigning Cuban identity, recovering their power of subversion and resignifying Utopia.” – Paulo A. Paranagua, Le Monde (France)

  • Feb. 12, 2014: Manuel Gonzales (USA): The Miniature Wife and Other Stories 
  • Manuel Gonzales has published fiction and nonfiction in Open City, Fence, One Story,Esquire, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, and The Believer. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he is Executive Director of Austin Bat Cave.

    “Lucid and confident…because his prose is never sloppy and his rhythm is impeccable, Gonzales’s sentences unfold with an unusual smoothness…these stories showcase an exciting new voice… [they] ring and resound.”—Aimée Bender, The New York Times Book Review

    “It’s easy to compare Manuel Gonzales to George Saunders, but it would be just as easy to compare him to Borges or Márquez or Aimee Bender…He makes the extraordinary ordinary, and his playfulness is infectious.” —Benjamin Percy, Esquire

    “Excellent…Gonzales has built a peerless fictional universe by populating his stories with zombies, unicorns, werewolves and space warriors, and then giving them the sensibilities of worried middle managers…hilarious and chilling…a superior collection of writing and a signpost of an emerging talent with a strong and distinctive voice.”—Michael Lindgren, The Washington Post

    “Is there a term for something that’s sad, funny, and strange all at once? Sunge? Frad? Because that would describe this imaginative debut…even the most absurd emotional conflicts feel familiar somehow, which only makes them more moving.”—Melissa Maerz, Entertainment Weekly

    “Gonzales’ voice is so new and different and dazzling that you won’t be able to put down his book.”—Steph Opitz, Marie Claire

  • March 7, 2014: Moniru Ravanipur (Iran)
  • Internationally-acclaimed writer Moniru Ravanipur read from a work-in-progress at City of Asylum on March 7.

    Moniru Ravanipur has written novels, short stories, works for children, plays and screenplays. She was among 17 activists to face trial in Iran for their participation in the 2000 Berlin Conference, for which they were accused of taking part in anti-Iran propaganda. Copies of her books were recently stripped from bookstore shelves in Iran in a countrywide police action.

    Moniru’s visit to City of Asylum was a cooperative project with The Ellis School, where she spoke on March 6 as part of the school’s annual Women Of Courage Speaker Series.



Click the links in the listings below to see video and read about our events and writers.

Salon Readings

  • Jan. 8, 2013: Barlen Pyamootoo (Mauritius), author of In Babylon and Bénarès and Visiting Writer-in Residence at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. Mr Pyamootoo read excerpts from both novellas as well as selected other materials, and screened scenes from the film version of Bénarès, which he wrote and directed.
  • Feb. 12, 2013: Eduardo Halfon (Guatemala), Visiting Writer-in Residence at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, read excerpts from The Polish Boxer, the first of his works to be published in English.
  • March 6, 2013: Sonali Samarasinghe

A reading from a work-in-progress by the exiled Sri Lankan journalist and human rights activist Sonali Samarasinghe, writer-in-residence at Ithaca City of Asylum.

  • March 20, 2013: Visiting writer-in-residence Vijay Nair (India), a Fulbright fellow researching the impacts of the decline of the steel industry, was joined by guest-readers Josh Barnes, T.J. Murphy and Sandhya Krishnan. Mr. Nair’s program, “A Tale of Two Cities,” featured selections from his poetry, prose and drama, including a work-in-progress set partly in Pittsburgh and partly in Jamshedpur, the “steel city” of Jharkhand state, India. Mr. Nair has written a number of columns for Sampsonia Way magazine and is the author of Let Her Rest Now (2012, fiction), and The Boss is Not Your Friend (2011, non-fiction) both published by Hachette India; Master of Life Skills (2006, fiction) published by Harper Collins; and The Gloomy Rabbit and other plays (2003, Dronequill Publishers). He is also a theater director, critic/columnist and organizational coach and consultant. A recipient of the Fulbright Senior Research Grant and the British Council Charles Wallace Award, he was also awarded a US State Department Grant to attend the International Writers Program at the University of Iowa. See a slideshow of this event
  • April 4-14, 2013: University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Theatre Arts presented City of Asylum

A new play by Cynthia Croot – a story of struggle, resilience, transcendence, and hope. The City of Asylum movement provides sanctuary to writers in danger of persecution or death in their home countries. This newly-devised play gives voice to the work exiled artists from China, El Salvador, Burma, and Venezuela. Join in the conversation with a series of community events surrounding the production of this brave new work. Presented at the Charity Randall Theatre at the Stephen Foster Memorial, Forbes Avenue/Bigelow Boulevard, Pittsburgh PA 15260; Tuesday – Saturdays at 8:00 PM; Sunday Matinees at 2:00 PM.

  • April 10, 2013: Sampsonia Way presents Orlando Luis Pardo.

SampsoniaWay.org, the online journal of literature, free speech and social justice published by City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, presented Cuban correspondent, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, who was visiting the US for the first time (see coverage on New York Times website). He offered first-hand insights about Cuba and the USA today in conversation with Sampsonia Way’s Managing Editor, Silvia Duarte.

  • April 18, 2013: City of Asylum/Pittsburgh presents Boulet

Gilles Roussel, a.k.a. Boulet, is a French cartoonist and author. He was among the first French cartoonists to publish a comic strip blog, starting in July 2004, and is the author of Darkness, published in February 2013 by Adhouse Books. Boulet was joined in conversation by Pittsburgh cartoonists Jim Rugg and Jasen Lex.

  • April 25, 2013: Sampsonia Way presents Tarık Günersel.

SampsoniaWay.org, the online journal of literature, free speech and social justice published by City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, presented Turkish correspondent and president of Turkish PEN, Tarık Günersel. He offered first-hand insights about Turkey today in conversation with Sampsonia Way’s Managing Editor, Silvia Duarte.

  • April 30, 2013: City of Asylum/Pittsburgh presents The Letters of Willa Cather

Editor Andrew Jewell read from and discussed the newly-published Selected Letters of Willa Cather. See a slideshow from this event.

  • May 8, 2013: City of Asylum/Pittsburgh and Sampsonia Way Magazine presented AfricAméricas at City of Asylum
    Cuban scholars and civil rights activistsJuan Antonio Madrazo Luna, Leonardo Calvo Cárdenas, Manuel Cuesta Morúa and Rafel Campoamor are all members of the Comité Ciudadano por la Integración Racial (Citizens’ Committee for Racial Integration), an independent organization in Havana, Cuba involved in the ongoing struggle against racial discrimination and for the reestablishment of civil society in Cuba. They were joined by Juan Antonio Alvarado, Editor-in-Chief of the bilingual journal ISLAS, a publication dedicated to the issue of racism and discrimination in Cuba and elsewhere, and by Kenya Dworkin, professor of Hispanic Studies at Carnegie Mellon University. Panelists discussed the grassroots work their organization and others are doing in Cuba, and the role of ISLAS as a space in which by publishing articles they can educate people about racism and discrimination in Cuba and dialogue with other civil rights activists around the world about shared problems and strategies for resolving them. The scholar-activists were invited to Pittsburgh by a coalition of community organizations and universities to participate in Crossing Havana and AfricAméricas, a weeklong series of events May 6-11, 2013. These events were covered in El Diario de Cuba as well as in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • June 8, 2013, 1 PM – 10 PM: EXILED VOICES OF CHINA AND TIBET - A day-long series of free talks, readings and performances featuring Independent Chinese PEN Center President and Sampsonia Way columnist Tienchi Martin Liao, poet and musician Liao Yiwu, human rights activist and lawyer Chen Guangcheng, and New York Times Beijing correspondent Andrew Jacobs. Hosts and moderators included Pittsburgh World Affairs Council President and CEO Steven E. Sokol, and WESA’s Paul Guggenheimer. The event concluded with Rock & Rap for Freedom, a concert featuring JasiriX and Tibetan exiled rockers Melong Band, with a special appearance by City of Asylum poet Huang Xiang.
  • June 20: 2013: Fourth Annual Cave Canem Poets Reading – an electrifying night of award-winning poetry and music in City of Asylum’s Monterey Street tent, on the 1400 block of Monterey Street between Sampsonia Way and Jacksonia Street on the Northside. Starting at 6:45 PM, saxophonist James Brandon Lewis (“a strong, innovatiove voice in jazz” – Jazz Review) kicked off the evening with a musical prelude. At 7:30, Toi Derricotte shared poems from The Undertaker’s Daughter (U. of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), called by Terrance Hayes “her most stirring and innovative work yet,” and selections from previous award-winning collections. With musicians Concetta Abbate and Charlie Rauh, Cornelius Eady performed lyrics from his two-volume Book of Hooks chapbook-with-CD (Kattywompus Press, 2013). PEN Beyond Margins Award-winner Harryette Mullen read from Recyclopedia and new poems from a collection forthcoming from Graywolf Press. Guest poet and novelist Chris Abani read from his several books of poems, including Sanctificum (Copper Canyon, 2010), a work that “enters the wound with a boldness that avoids nothing (Library Journal).” A book signing with the poets followed.
  • Sept. 7, 2013, 3:30 p.m.: Writers in the Gardens

This unique annual literary event takes its audience on a progressive reading through several private northside gardens; in each garden, a local writer treats the audience to a reading.

Writers in the Gardens is a celebration of creativity in our community. The event was started seven years ago and has presented more than 30 local writers and as many different gardens. Sandra Kniess, who has curated the space for this event every year, arranged for six different neighbors to volunteer their unique and beautiful gardens for the event; Marc Nieson, a writer and member of the faculty at Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing, curated the writers this year. And this year, for the first time, City of Asylum commissioned writers to create site-specific pieces especially for the event. The writers included Joan E. Bauer, Laura Castonguay, Robin Clarke, Vanessa German, and Peter Trachtenberg; gardeners included Darlene & Derwin Rushing, Jessica & Paul Carson, Katie & Steven Casker, Susan and Bill Steen, the Pennrose Widows’ Home, and Randy Gilson (Randyland).

  • Sept. 7, 2013, 7:45 p.m.: Jazz-Poetry Concert 2013

City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s ninth Jazz-Poetry Concert took place on Sampsonia Way, between Sherman and Monterey on the Northside. The great Oliver Lake returned, with Dee Alexander and her trio – bassist Harrison Bankhead, pianist Miguel de la Cerna, and percussionist Ernie Adams – plus featured poet Joy Harjo. This year’s poets and writers included Wang Jiaxin (China), Sridala Swami (India), Israel Centeno (Venezuela), Khet Mar (Burma), and Yaghoub Yadali (Iran), with a recorded contribution from the Chilean-Argentine author, Ariel Dorfman, and a live performance by magician Paul Gertner.

The concert was webcast live on Livestream, http://www.livestream.com/jazzpoetryconcert.

Download a copy of the program book.

  • Sept. 26: Salon Reading – Rodolfo Walsh’s Operation Massacre, with translator Daniella Gitlin and Professor Daniel Balderston

Available for the first time in English, Operation Massacre is a game-changing classic of true crime from Argentina, 1957, by a Latin American literary hero whose courage to find the truth eventually condemned him to death.

Buenos Aires, 1956: Argentina has just lost its charismatic president Juan Peron in a military coup, and terror reigns across the land. June 1956: 18 people are reported dead in a “secret” execution, a failed uprising. December 1956: high school dropout, sometime journalist, detective story writer, un-politicized chess aficionado Rodolfo Walsh learns by chance that one of the executed civilians is alive. He hears that there may be more than one survivor. Walsh hears an unbelievable story and believes it on the spot. And right there, the monumental classic Operation Massacre is born. Walsh made it his mission to find not only the survivors but widows, orphans, conspirators, political refugees, fugitives, alleged informers, and anonymous heroes, in order to find out what happened that night, sending him on a journey that took over the rest of his life. Originally published in 1957, Operation Massacre thoroughly and breathlessly recounts the night of the execution and its fallout. Appendices in the new English-language edition include Walsh’s famous “Open Letter to the Military Junta,” which he sent to the country’s major newspapers one day before he was kidnapped and killed in 1977.

REVIEWS
“A mesmerizing, prophetic tour de force of investigative journalism exposing the pervasive thuggishness of the Argentine military elite. A chilling, lucid work, beautifully translated by Gitlin, which serves as a great example of journalistic integrity.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

  • Oct. 8, 2013: Salon Reading – Hamdy el-Gazzar (Egypt)

Hamdy El-Gazzar is an Egyptian writer. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Private Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He is currently working on a third novel. He is a columnist for SampsoniaWay.org.

Private Pleasures – released in English translation on October 15, 2013 – describes the three-day sex, drink, and drug binge of a thirty-something newsreader in the back streets and crumbling apartments of his native Giza, that pulsating mass of humanity that sits opposite Cairo on the Nile’s west bank. Pursued by an unshakable sense of impending doom that is only partly attributable to fear of retribution at the hands of a sadistic police officer with whose wife he is conducting a frenzied affair, the narrator observes, with fascinated horror, his own stumbling progress through a world of menace and wonder inhabited by philosophical prostitutes, nightmarish butchers, serene Quran-readers, pious family members, religious con-men, autistic tissue-sellers, and others. Milleresque in its treatment of sex, the novel captures the essence of the phantasmagoric world of the Egyptian mega-city, disintegrating under the pressures of its home-grown horrors while pining for the sublime.

  • Oct. 16: Salon Reading – Anita Desai (India)

Photo by Ulf Andersen/Getty Images.

    Anita Desai was born in 1937 in Mussoorie, India. She was educated at Delhi University. She has been shortlisted three times for the Booker Prize, with

Clear Light Of Day(1980),In Custody (1994) and Fasting, Feasting (1999). She has published several novels, children’s books and short stories. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Girton College, Cambridge. She teaches in the Writing Program at MIT. Anita Desai lives in Massachusetts.

  • Nov. 7: Salon Reading – Ivo Victoria (Belgium) and Román Antopolsky

In 2011 City of Asylum/Pittsburgh began an exchange partnership with the renowned Belgian literary organization Het Beschrijf at Passa Porta. Passa Porta chooses a Belgian writer for a residency on Sampsonia Way, and COA/P sponsors a juried literary competition to choose a Pittsburgh writer who is awarded a reciprocal one-month residency in Brussels. For this reading on November 7, both writers read.

Ivo Victoria; photograph by Lieke Romeijn.

Ivo Victoria (Belgium) took an unusual path to becoming a novelist, working in the music industry as a promoter and in a series of rock bands as a singer and guitar player until 2008. He began to to turn to writing around 2005 and made his literary debut in 2009 with the bittersweet coming-of-age comedy, How I Never Won the Tour de France for Under Twelves (and Regret It). In it the character Ivo Victoria returns chastened to the Antwerp suburb he left twenty years before, where as a child he was known as an incorrigible show-off. The book was short listed for the Dutch Debut Prize and long listed for the prestigious AKO Literature Prize. His second novel, Fortunately We’re Powerless, was very different – an intense family drama. The novel was shortlisted for the prestigious Libris Literature Prize and again longlisted for the AKO Literature Prize. Currently Ivo Victoria is working on a third novel, entitled Fire Thieves, to be published in March 2014. He also writes short stories and columns for various newspapers and (literary) magazines.

Román Antopolsky

Román Antopolsky

    (USA) was born in Buenos Aires in 1976. He has published three books of poetry and one book of prose and numerous translations of literature and philosophy from various languages across the Americas. His own writing has been translated into English, Portuguese, and Dutch. In addition to winning City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s juried Pittsburgh Prize, Román read at our 2008 Jazz Poetry Concert, as part of “What is Home?”

  • Nov. 19: Salon Reading – Laurent Binet (France)

Presented in partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.

Laurent Binet’s debut novel HHhH, a remarkable and surprising fast-paced World War II novel, won the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman in 2010 and was adapted for the stage and performed at the Théâtre de la Commune in Aubervilliers in 2012. It has been short-listed for several prizes, including the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was selected as one of The New York Times‘ Notable Books of 2012.

HHhH tells the story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the “Butcher of Prague.” In addition to being a gripping story, it explores the lure of narrative in writing history, the struggle between memory and fact, and the nature of historical truth. After reading it, you will ask “How did the author know?” whenever you read a biography or history.

Laurent Binet was born in Paris, France, in 1972. He is the author of La Vie professionnelle de Laurent B., a memoir of his experience teaching in secondary schools in Paris. Binet is a professor of French Literature at the University of Paris. His most recent novel, Rien ne se passe comme prévu is a firsthand account of the successful presidential campaign of François Hollande, which Binet wrote while embedded in the campaign staff.

Lectures, Panels and Residencies

  • Jan. 10, Feb. 4, Feb. 13, Feb. 20, and Feb. 28, 2013: Israel Centeno (Venezuela) at Winchester-Thurston School
    City of Asylum/Pittsburgh Exiled Writer-in-residence Israel Centeno spoke to students at the Winchester Thurston School; students also visited the Centeno family at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, and interviewed Israel and members of the family for inclusion in a film and in their Audio Storyboxes.
  • March 20, 2013: Robert Morris University -Celebrating Communications
    A day-long recognition of the First Amendment and Journalism, featuring workshops, lectures and more. At 2:00 p.m., City of Asylum co-founder and President Henry Reese spoke on “Rescuing the Word: City of Asylum’s Mission to Fight Censorship.”
  • March 21, 2013: CORO Fellows Program in Public Affairs Presentation.
    CORO trains leaders on the basis of ethical diversity across the nation. CORO leaders specialize in attending to complex problems that span across various sectors and cooperating toward the public interest, rather than that of the individual or institution. COA/P Co-founders Henry Reese and Diane Samuels gave this committee a tour of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh and introduced them to the basic principles and goals of the program. Resident writer Israel Centeno (Venezuela) gave a short talk followed by a question-and-answer session on his experience at City of Asylum.
    • May 14, 2013: International Cities of Refuge Network in Kraków, Poland
      ICORN is an association dedicated to expanding the value of freedom of expression to writers throughout the world in times of crisis and recession. By forming international communities that provide a safe environment in which to write, ICORN is slowly fighting the battle against global repression. The panel included COA/P Co-founder Henry Reese, along with Raffaella Salierno (Barcelona), Philippe Olle Laprune (Mexico City), and Anna Funder (NYC; via skype).
    • June 14, 2013: Americans for the Arts Convention panel – “Making Meaning.”
      Public art is inherently informed by and created from a deep understanding of place. Successful place-based works are not necessarily replicable but unique to the space and time in which they are created. But how does place translate into actual form, into publicly accessible projects? This presentation from 2:30 – 4:00 pm featured Moderator Liesel Fenner, the Public Art Network Director at Americans for the Arts; presenter Cath Brunner, Director of Public Art4Culture in Seattle; and presenter Jon Pounds, Executive Director of the Chicago Public Art Group; and Henry Reese, of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh.


    Click the links in the listings below to see video and read about our events and writers.

  • September 8, 2012: Jazz Poetry Concert. The Eighth Annual Jazz-Poetry Concert, held at the New Hazlett Theater, featured writers Patricia Smith (USA), Luis Bravo (Uruguay), T.J. Dema (Botswana), Khet Mar (Burma) and Israel Centeno (Venezuela); and music by the Oliver Lake Steel Quartet with Meshell Ndegeocello.
    • September 8, 2012: Writers in the Gardens – This unusual walking-tour/literary event precedes City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s annual Jazz-Poetry Concert. Readings are staged in five different gardens near Sampsonia Way. The 2012 program was curated by Sheryl St. Germain, Director of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Chatham University; Writers included Dilruba Ahmed, Sally Alexander, Lori Jakiela, Heather McNaugher, and Marc Nieson.
    • September 9, 2012: I Don’t Know What I’d Do If I Couldn’t Speak My Mind – A day-long series of readings by poets, essayists, dramatists, and storytellers of all genres and all ages. The event was organized by Adel Fougnies, curated by Anjali Sachdeva and Maureen McGranaghan, and was held on Monterey Street in conjunction with the annual Mexican War Streets House and Garden Tour. Readers included Ervin Dyer, Frank Izaquirre, David Borland, Holly Coleman, Renée Alberts, Bonita Lee Penn, Meghan Tutolo, Nikki Allen, Madalon Amenta, Sheila Carter Jones, Robert Fenhagen, Cynthia Croot, Angele Ellis, Lindsey Scherloum and Sarah Leavens, Robert Walecki, Sheila Kelly, Seamus Brohannigan, Kathy Donnelly, Dessie Bey, Carolyne Whelan, Stephanie Wielkopolan, Students from the Colfax School, and Victoria Dym.

    Readings & Talks

      City of Asylum/Pittsburgh hosted a reading by Bosnian writer Ismet Prcic who read from his novel, Shards, which was listed as a “Notable Book of the Year” by The New York Times.
        City of Asylum/Pittsburgh presented the third installment of its “Reading of the World” series. The event featured a reading by Poet Laureate of South Africa (2006), Keorapetse Kgositsile, a solo jazz-poetry performance by saxophonist and composer Oliver Lake, and a collaboration between the two.
      • May 5, 2012: Exiled Voices of Iran – Nazila Fathi, Pegah Ahmedi, Casulaty Process
        City of Asylum/Pittsburgh hosted a continuation of its Reading of the World series. One of the speakers at the event was Nazila Fathi, a journalist, translator and commentator on Iran. She was interviewed by Steven Sokol, President and Chief Executive Officer of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh. the day included a reading by trailbazing Iranian poet Pegah Ahmadi, whose published works were removed from circulation by the Iranian government because of her critiques of the role of the Islamic religion in the history of cruelty to women and suppression of free expression in Iran. She was then banned from further publication and fired from her job. In 2009, following her involvement with the Green Movement demonstrations, she was threatened with imprisonment, and subsequently she left Iran with the assistance of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). She is now in residence at Brown University.
      • July 18, 2012: Deborah Cullinan
      • Sept. 27, 2012: Jonathan Gottschall
      • Nov. 15, 2012: Israel Centeno and Prime Stage
      • Dec. 8, 2012: Natasha Wimmer – translator, Roberto Bolaño’s Woes of the True Policeman

      Lectures, Panels and Residencies

      • Oct. 20, 2012: One Young World
        One Young World – a London-based charity founded in 2009 that aims to connect and encourage young people from all over the world to create positive change through global ambassadorship programs – held its [ ] conference in Pittsburgh October [ ], 2012. Thirty-one delegates from the conference visited City of Asylum for a tour and workshop, led by Sampsonia Way Magazine managing editor Silvia Duarte and the magazine staff, on exercising and protecting the right to free speech.
      • Nov. 5, 2012: Alliance of Artist Communities – Exiled Writers of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh
        This talk, given by Henry Reese, President of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, explores the work of City of Asylum, a sanctuary for writers exiled under threat of persecution. City of Asylum seeks to make a better home for writers, readers, and neighbors alike. By programming in such places as public streets, they have explored a new model for an accessible “cultural commons”. Extending this programming into homes and private gardens (and the internet) has brought the public into private spaces and linked the private spaces to the public. Attending or hosting an event is immediate arts and civic participation, a way to join all levels of what it means to “make a better home.”


    Click the links in the listings below to see video and read about our events and writers.

    • September 10, 2011: Writers in the Gardens – This unusual walking-tour/literary event precedes City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s annual Jazz-Poetry Concert. Readings are staged in five different gardens near Sampsonia Way. Writers for 2011 included Michael Wurster, Jim Daniels, Joy Katz, Lori Wilson, and Sheila Carter-Jones.
    • September 11, 2011: I Don’t Know What I’d Do If I Couldn’t Speak My Mind – A day-long series of readings by poets, essayists, dramatists, and storytellers of all genres and all ages, held on Monterey Street in conjunction with the annual Mexican War Streets House and Garden Tour. Readers included Ervin Dyer, Marc Nieson, Eileen Arthurs, Kenneth Miller; Margo, Wesley, and Nicole Gadsden; Angele Ellis, Dave Borland, Joan Kielar, Ronald Garland, Jr., Daeja D. Baker, Jen Bannan, Madalon Amenta, Kathy Donnelly, Lindsey Peck Scherloum, Rachel Luckenbill, e. b. bortz, Students from CAPA, Sarah Leavens, Aaron Bernkopf, Maureen McGranahan, Michelle Gaffey, and Sheila Carter Jones.

    Readings & Talks

    • March, 3, 2011: Khet Mar, Exiled Writer-in-Residence (Burma) at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, read her poetry and prose, with translations by Michelle Gil-Montero and Roman Antopolsky. See a slideshow about Khet Mar’s life at Sampsonia Way Online Magazine.
    • April 7, 2011: Paul Zelevansky- The Case for Burial of Ancestors and Great Blankness
    • May 11, 2011: Jean Kwok (Hong Kong) read from Girl in Translation; discussion moderated by Bill O’Driscoll
      • June 23, 2011: Cave Canem Poets

    City of Asylum/Pittsburgh partnered with the African-American poetry collective Cave Canem to host a reading with poets Toi Derricotte, Cornelius Eady, Natasha Trethewey, and special guest Amiri Baraka.

    • July 16, 2011:Dermot Bolger (Ireland) read from The Journey Home.
    • July 27, 2011: Horacio Castellanos Moya (El Salvador), Tyrant Memory. Former Exiled Writer-in-Residence at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, Castellanos Moya read from his novel Tyrant Memory, translated into English by Katherine Silver and published by New Direction Press.
    • October 10, 2011: Paul Mennes (Belgium) read from The Rabbit in the Moon.
    • October 28, 2011: 4 Irish Women PoetsEiléan Ni Chuilleanáin, Leontia Flynn, Rita Ann Higgins and Caitríona O’Reilly; discussion moderated by Tess Barry.



    Click the links in the listings below to see video and read about our events and writers.

    City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s Sixth Jazz Poetry Concert, held at the New Hazlett Theater, included Yusef Komunyakaa, Horacio Castellanos Moya, Khet Mar, Huang Xiang, Hinemoana Baker, and Maryia Martysevich with the musical accompaniment of a large ensemble led by jazz legend Oliver Lake.

      • September 11, 2010: Writers in the Gardens
        Autumn House Press curated Writers in the Gardens – a literary walking tour. Pittsburgh writers Jan Beatty, Derek Green, Sheryl St. Germain, Philip Terman, and Patricia Jabbeh Wesley gave short readings in five gardens on the North Side, in the heart of the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh community.

      Readings & Talks

        • Jan. 31, 2010: Maxine Case (South Africa), All We Have Left Unsaid, and Marius Ivaskevicius (Lithuania), Close City

      To launch our program for 2010, we presented a dual reading with two authors from very different parts of the world: Maxine Case of South Africa and Marius Ivaskevicius of Lithuania. Both were writers-in-residence on Sampsonia Way from the Iowa International Writing Program at the time of the reading. Read Maxine Case’s essay, Left Behind, at Sampsonia Way online.

      • April 29, 2010: Akhil Sharma, The Good Father, moderated by Bob Hoover

       

      From gangster fiction to family drama, Akhil Sharma writes clear prose that has an astonishing range of tone. He read a selection of his work and participated in a question and answer period moderated by Bob Hoover. Watch an excerpt from his reading at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh,and read an interview with Akhil Sharma at Sampsonia Way online.

       

      • April 27, 2010: PEN World Voices

       

      In conjunction with the PEN World Voices Festival, City of Asylum Pittsburgh hosted a mini-festival with readings by award winning authors Sofi Oksanen (Finland), Tommy Wieringa (The Netherlands), and Christos Tsiolkas (Australia). These three authors represent the best of the new generation of writers in their home countries.

       

      • June 24, 2010: Cave Canem Poets – Colleen McElroy, Carl Phillips, Claudia Rankine, Sapphire

       

      As part of the annual Cave Canem Retreat, poetry fellows and faculty travelled to Pittsburgh for a day of workshops and an evening reading. The reading was open to the public and featured poets Colleen McElroy, Carl Phillips, Claudia Rankine, and Sapphire. You can view a slideshow on Sampsonia Way online.

       

      • June 30, 2010: Letras Latinas Poets – Francisco Aragon, Brenda Cardenas

       

      Director of Letras Latinas, Francisco Aragon and Professor of English, Brenda Cardenas read their poetry.

       

      • October 5, 2010: Jim Powell (England): The Breaking of Eggs

       

      Jim Powell read from his debut novel, The Breaking of Eggs, which follows protagonist Feliks Zhukovski on his ideological journey away from Communism. Read an interview with Powell in Sampsonia Way.

       

      • November 11, 2010: Shahriar Mandanipour (Iran) – Censoring a Love Story in Iran

       

      Shahriar Mandanipour read from his novel, Censoring an Iranian Love Story. The novel weaves together two tales: one about young love challenged by an unsettled country and another about a writer trying to write a love story acceptable to Iranian censors.


    Click the links in the listings below to see video and read about our events and writers.

    Our fifth annual Jazz Poetry Concert, a collaborative program of music and spoken word, featured writers Miloš Djurdjević (Croatia), Khet Mar (Burma), Irakli Kakabadze (Georgia), Meena Kandasamy (India), and Soheil Najm (Iraq), with Chenjerai Hove (Zimbabwe) and Mansour Rajih (Yemen) participating by remote video broadcast. Geri Allen and Trio 3 (Oliver Lake, Andrew Cyrille, and Reggie Workman) provided live music. The Emcee was Barbara Russell.

      • September 12, 2009: Writers in the Gardens

    - This unusual walking-tour/literary event precedes City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s annual Jazz-Poetry Concert. Readings are staged in five different gardens near Sampsonia Way. Our third annual Writers in the Gardens walking/reading tour was curated by the Gist St. Reading series. Writers included Terrance Hayes, Julia Spicker Kasdorf, Charles Leerhsen, Andrew Mulvania, and Sarah Saffian.

    Readings & Talks

      • April 5, 2009: Richard Wiley, Hotel Shalom (manuscript reading)

    PEN Faulkner award-winning writer Richard Wiley, author of Soldiers in Hiding, read from his just-completed novel, The Hotel Shalom.

      • July 23, 2009: Moniro Ravinapour and Anahita Farouz (Iran): Iran Unveiled (WYEP)

    Moniro Ravinapour, an Iranian writer and writer-in-residence at City of Asylum/Las Vegas, and Anahita Farouz, a novelist from Tehran, read from their work and participated in a discussion as part of American Shorts @ WYEP in a special program called “Iran Unveiled.” DJ James Gyre also spun Iranian music from classical to hip hop before and after the readings and discussion.

      • September 18, 2009: Irakli Kakabadze (Republic of Georgia) & Nicopress

    A collaboration in spoken word and music, developed in a week-long residency at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. Georgian poet Irakli Kakabadze and Pittsburgh musician cooperative Nicopress -featuring Matt Rosenblum, Herman Pearl “soy sos,” Dave Bjornson, Alex Bard, Jeff Berman, and Josh Tanzer - performed at the New Hazlett Theater. Read Mr. Kakabadze’s poetry at Sampsonia Way Online Magazine.

      • September 30, 2009: Hilary Masters, How the Indians Buried Their Dead

    City of Asylum/Pittsburgh hosted the inaugural reading for two of Hilary Masters‘ books: the short story collection How the Indians Buried their Dead and the essay collection In Rooms of Memory. The books were released in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of Masters’ memoir, Last Stands!

      • September 23, 2009: Burma VJ (film) with panel of Burmese monks

    Twenty Burmese monks stayed at City fo Asylum/Pittsburgh from September 23 to September 25, 2009, during the G20 conference held in Pittsburgh. On Sept. 23, the monks completed a prayer walk starting at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh on Sampsonia Way, travelling through the Mexican War Streets and ending at the Mattress Factory, where screened the film Burma VJ followed by a panel discussion and reception. The movie is about the uprising of monks in Burma; one of the monks in the movie took part in the panel. Khet Mar, Exiled writer-in-residence (Burma) at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, also participated in the panel. Sept. 24, 2009 marked the two-year anniversary of the uprising.

      • October 25, 2009: Horacio Castellanos Moya (El Salvador), She Devil in the Mirror

    In the fall of 2009, two of Horacio Castellanos Moya’s novels were released in English for the first time: Dance with Snakes and She Devil in the Mirror. A reading/book launch was held at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, with Alicia Sebald as a featured guest reader.

      • November 8, 2009: Er Tai Gao (China), In Search of My Homeland

    Er Tai Gao gave a salon-style reading of his memoir In Search of My Homeland: A Memoir of a Chinese Labor Camp, which chronicles the author’s years of political persecution under China’s Communist government. He also offered his thoughts on the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square at Sampsonia Way Online Magazine.

      • December 7, 2009: George Packer, Interesting Times

    Journalist George Packer read from his article “Drowning.” The article is one of the many pieces included in Interesting Times: Writings from a Turbulent Decade, which covers events from 2001-2008. The piece “Drowning” includes part of the story of Khet Mar, Exiled Writer-in-Residence from Burma at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, whom Packer met in Burma during aid efforts after Cyclone Nargis.


    Click the links in the listings below to see video and read about our events and writers.

    City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s fourth annual Jazz Poetry Concert was held at the New Hazlett Theater for the first time due to rain. The concert featured the commissioned work What is Home?, composed by Oliver Lake. Performers included writers Román Antopolsky (Argentina), Maryam Ala Amjadi (Iran), Lynn Emanuel and Terrance Hayes, Cvetka Lipuš (Slovenia), Nikola Madzirov (Macedonia), Rogelio Saunders (Cuba), Gerald Stern, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley (Liberia), with the Oliver Lake Quintet (Peck Allmond, Jared Gold, Gene Lake, Oliver Lake, Jahi Sundance) and Flux Quartet (Tom Chiu, Rose Bellini, Pauline Kim, Max Mandel). Guest Reader & Emcee were Yona Harvey and Barbara Russell.

      • September 13, 2008: Writers in the Gardens

    This unusual walking-tour/literary event precedes City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s annual Jazz-Poetry Concert. Readings are staged in five different gardens near Sampsonia Way. The second annual Writers in the Gardens tour was curated by the Gist St. Reading Series. Writers included Kazim Ali, Nancy Krygowski, Yona Harvey, Shauna Seliy, and Lois Williams.

    Readings & Talks

      • February 21, 2008: Bill Johnston (translator), 3 Polish authors

    Bill Johnston read from his translations of Polish authors Magdalena Tulli and Tadeusz Rózewicz.

      • May 6, 2008: Horacio Castellanos Moya (El Salvador) and Kathleen Silver (translator), “Translating Senselessness

    City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s Exiled Writer-in-Residence (El Salvador) Horacio Castellanos Moya and translator Kathleen Silver read from and discussed translating Castellanos Moya’s novel, Senselessness.

      • September 11, 2008: Horacio Castellanos Moya (El Salvador) and Francisco Goldman, An Incident of Human Rights

    Presented by the American Shorts Reading Series at the New Hazlett Theater, the authors read from their works and participated in a question and answer session on their different approaches to the same real events. Castellanos Moya’s novel, Senselessness, is a wild, fictional piece that is deeply rooted in real-world documents. Goldman’s meticulous non-fictional investigation, The Art of Political Murder, is a whodunit that seems more fantastic than any reality.

      • October 16, 2008: Walter Mosley

    Author of the Easy Rawlins mystery series and numerous other works of fiction, Mosley read and answered questions for a school group at Pittsburgh’s Byham Theater. The reading was presented jointly by City of Asylm/Pittburgh and Cave Canem.

      • October 30, 2008: Russell Banks, Dreaming Up America

    Novelist Russell Banks read from his first non-fiction book, Dreaming Up America, which looks at American habits from Colonial times to the present. The event was a presentation of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh at Chatham University. Watch an interview with Russell Banks at Sampsonia Way Online Magazine

      • December 11, 2008: Glaydah Namukasa, Voice of a Dream

    A visiting writer-in-residence from Uganda, Glaydah Namukasa treated the community to a reading of one of her short stories and chatted with audience members after the reading.


    Click the links in the listings below to see video and read about our events and writers.

    City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s third annual Jazz Poetry Concert, a collaborative performance between musicians and writers, took place outdoors on Sampsonia Way. It featured the writers G. Ayurzana (Mongolia), Horacio Castellanos Moya (El Salvador), Kei Miller (Jamaica), Rita Mockus (Lithuania), Kavery Nambisian (India), and Huang Xiang (China); the World Saxophone Quartet (Oliver Lake, Hamiet Bluiett, James Carter, Greg Osby)with Roger Humphries; and Guest Reader and Emcee Sen. James Ferlo and David Conrad.

      • September 13, 2007: Writers in the Gardens

    City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s inaugural Writers in the Gardens literary walking-tour was curated by the Gist St. Reading Series, directed by Sherrie Flick, Nancy Krygowski, and Rick Schweikert. Featured writers were Sherrie Flick, Nancy Krygowski, Elise Levine, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, and Philip Terman.

    Readings & Talks

      • February 17, 2007: Horacio Castellanos Moya

    Exiled Writer-in-Residence (El Salvador) Horacio Castellanos Moya’s first reading at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh was a salon-style reading; Horacio read from his novel Senselessness.

      • May 6, 2007: Peter Koch

    The founder of Peter Koch Printers, a fine book publisher, gave a lecture on publishing and fine press printing.

      • June 5, 2007: Bernard Freydberg and Arthur Levine, Defying Gravity: Playfulness & Creativity

    Freydberg and Levine gave a talk on creativity and playfulness in art and science at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh.

      • October 23, 2007: Jill Schoolman, Archipelago Books (publisher)

    The founder and publisher of Archipelago Books spoke about starting a press, identifying authors and books, working with translators, and the book trade.

      • December 1, 2007: Judith Dupre, Monuments

    Dupre gave a lecture on her non-fiction work, Monuments: America’s History in Art and Memory. Monuments looks at how and why we honor the major events in our history; the author considers everything from Mount Rushmore to the AIDS quilt.

      • December 7, 2007: Vijay Nair (India)The Balance Sheet

    Visiting Writer Vijay Nair gave a reading of The Balance Sheet, a play still in progress at the time. Diane Cecily, Brad Stephenson, Dan Jemmet, Gayle Pazerski, and Mary Rawson participated in the reading.


    Click the links in the listings below to see video and read about our events and writers.

      • September 9, 2006: Jazz Poetry Concert

    City of Asylum’s second Jazz Poetry Concert was curated by Oliver Lake and featured Nobel laureate and writer Wole Soyinka (Nigeria), poet Toi Derricotte, and Exiled Writer-in-Residence (China) Huang Xiang, with musicians Oliver Lake, Dwayne Dolphin, Roger Humphries, and Bruce Williams; other participants included Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, Rekha Shukla, and Sharon McDermott.


    Events & Readings

      • September 10, 2005: Jazz Poetry Concert

    City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s first Jazz Poetry Concert featured poets Toi Derricotte and Huang Xiang (China), with musicians Oliver Lake, Tim Bedner, Roger Humphries, Mimi Jong, Elise Letourneau, and Dave Pellow. Emcee was Khari Mosley with translations read by Nancy Krygowski.

      • September 14, 2005: Salman Rushdie

    City of Asylum/Pittburgh and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust co-sponsored an event with Salman Rushdie at the Byham Theater. Rushdie read from Shalimar The Clown and gave a talk.

      • November 21, 2004: Huang Xiang Day

    The Mayor of Pittsburgh declared November 21, 2004 to be Huang Xiang Day in Pittsburgh. At a dedication ceremony, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s first Exiled Writer-in-Residence (China), Huang Xiang, read the poems he had painted on the facade of his house at 408 Sampsonia Way. (Here is a video of Huang Xiang reading the poems, taken earlier that month at the dedication of his house.) Novelist Russell Banks, then-Chairman of Cities of Refuge North America, was the featured guest speaker; he discussed the International Cities of Refuge movement and and the newly-formed City of Asylum/Pittsburgh.

    Well-Founded Feardocuments a variety of dramas unfolding in INS offices in the New York City area. The filmmakers focus on both the pleas of immigrants to stay in the United States, and the consideration of their cases by INS officers. At issue in every case are the requirements of asylum. To be granted, applicants must demonstrate a “well-founded fear” of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Huang Xiang’s case is included among those explored in the film, and he appears in it.