YEREVAN—Six American authors are traveling to Armenia and Turkey to visit local universities and literary institutions as part of a reading tour organized by the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (IWP). The trip aims to introduce contemporary American authors to Armenia and Turkey and to foster creative ties between the countries.
Specifically, writers will visit several courses at Yerevan Brusov State University.
Representing the American literary scene
Peter Balakian is the author of seven books of poems, including “June-Tree: New and Selected Poems 1974-2000” and the forthcoming “Ozone Journal.” His memoir “Black Dog of Fate” won the PEN/Albrand Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book; “The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response” (2003) won the Raphael Lemkin Prize. Translations of his work have appeared in a dozen languages; he is the recipient of many awards including a Guggenheim fellowship and the Spendlove Prize for Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance. A Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities, he directs the Creative Writing Program at Colgate University.
Maureen Freely was born in the US, grew up in Turkey, and has spent most of her adult life in England. A professor at the University of Warwick, she is currently the President of English PEN and the chair of the Translators Association. A translator of the Turkish novelist and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, she has been involved extensively in human rights campaigning in Turkey. Her sixth novel, “Enlightenment” (2007), covers some of that ground; her seventh, “Sailing through Byzantium,” was named one of the best novels of 2013 in the Sunday Times.
Gregory Orfalea was born and raised in Los Angeles. He is the author of “Journey to the Sun: Junipero Serra’s Dream and the Founding of California,” published in January 2014 by Scribner. With degrees from Georgetown University and the University of Alaska, Orfalea has published nine books, including a history of his father’s unit in World War II, “Messengers of the Lost Battalion,” and “Angeleno Days,” a memoir of growing up in Los Angeles, which won the Arab American Book Award and was a finalist for the PEN USA Prize in Creative Nonfiction. He is also the author of a collection of short stories, “The Man Who Guarded the Bomb,” as well as the seminal study, “The Arab Americans: A History.” Orfalea directed a writing program at the Claremont Colleges and has taught at several universities, including his alma mater, Georgetown, California Lutheran University, and currently Westmont College in Santa Barbara, where he directs the Conference on California Studies.
Mary Hickman is the author of two forthcoming books of poetry, “Wildlife” (2015) and “Rayfish” (2017). Her poems have been published in Colorado Review, jubilat, the PEN Poetry Series, and featured in Boston Review and the anthology “The Arcadia Project.” Her scholarly work is forthcoming in “Jacket2.” She has been a finalist for the Grolier Poetry Prize and the EPR Discovery Award. With the poet Robert Fernandez, she edits the poetry press Cosa Nostra Editions. She has lived in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Spain.
Gish Jen is the author of four novels, a collection of short stories and, most recently, the volume of lectures “Tiger Writing: Art, Culture and the Interdependent Self” (2013). Her work has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and dozens of other periodicals and anthologies, including “The Best American Short Stories of the Century.” Nominated for a National Book Critics’ Circle Award and an International IMPAC Dublin Book Award, she has received a Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, a Guggenheim fellowship, and numerous other awards; in 2009 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Christopher Merrill has published six books of poetry, including “Watch Fire,” for which he received the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; many edited volumes and books of translations; and five works of nonfiction, among them, “Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars” and “Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain.” His latest, “The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War” (2011) chronicles his travels in Asia and the Middle East in the wake of the war on terror. His writings have been translated into twenty-five languages; his honors include a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the French government. A member of the National Council on the Humanities and the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, he directs the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.
Against the backdrop of Erdogan’s xenophobic and hateful remarks, programs like these are extremely important in forging a stable, long-term peace with the Turks, and will only contribute to genocide recognition.