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VOA Connect 13: Writers in Exile

((Banner: Carrying on))
((Exec. Prod: Marsha James))

((Camera: Kaveh Rezaei))
((Adapted by: Zdenko Novacki))
((Map: United States / Pennsylvania / Pittsburgh))

((HENRY REESE, City of Asylum Pittsburgh))
City of Asylum Pittsburgh began to provide sanctuary to a writer exiled under threat of persecution. The writer could be endangered with prison, violence or censored in a way that you can’t publish freely. Our goal is to provide a place to live, living income and medical benefits. We feel it’s extremely important that the writer maintain the identity of being a writer, and the only way to do that, in exile, is to be published in the country you’re in.
In the United States, there are two other cities of asylum, both university affiliated. One at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Wole Soyinka, the writer who was instrumental in founding the whole movement worldwide, was in exile and in the faculty there for a good deal. And the other program is a consortium of universities in Ithaca (New York). So, he himself was instrumental in getting these other two programs.
We have four houses with writing on the outside in various languages that were inspired by the original writer in our program, Huang Xiang. Huang Xiang was from China and when he came here, he wanted to celebrate his freedom. He had never been allowed to express himself. He’d been tortured where his mouth had been beaten in, so he couldn’t even recite his poetry publicly, or they tried to prevent it in China.
As more writers came to our program and we began to provide more houses for them, we used that idea of publishing a book, but we called it “House Publishing.” And we were creating a public library of these houses as you walk down the street.

So, we have “House Poem,” “Winged House,” we have “Jazz House” and we have “Pittsburgh Burma House.” We’ve had writers now from long-term programs from six different countries: China, El Salvador, Burma, Venezuela, Iran and Bangladesh.