Sept. 23: DISSIDENCE: Exiled writers on resistance and risk

Solidarity tour brings City of Asylum writers to Ithaca 

Panel and reception Friday, September 23, 7 p.m.
Community School of Music and Arts, 330 E. State St., Ithaca

No registration required. Free and open to the public (donation requested)

By Jonathan Miller, member, ICOA board

The brutal stabbing of author Salman Rushdie on August 12 shocked readers, writers, and defenders of free speech everywhere. Yet around the world, writers, journalists, visual artists, filmmakers, musicians, actors, and other creative people are censored, harassed, imprisoned, or killed for speaking their minds or exercising their imaginations.

Four writers who have faced these dangers first-hand will share their experiences in “DISSIDENCE: Exiled Writers on Resistance and Risk,” a reading and reception on Friday, September 23 at 7 p.m in Martha Hamblin Hall at the Community School of Music and Arts in Ithaca.

The event will also celebrate Ithaca City of Asylum’s 20th anniversary of protecting and supporting writers at risk. Longtime ICOA board member Barbara Adams will moderate. No registration is required. Please leave large bags at home. Admission is free but a donation is requested.

The featured writers are Russian poet and polymath Dmitry Bykov, who nearly died in a poisoning, then was banned from teaching or appearing on state media; Nigerian essayist Pwaangulongii Dauod, who received death threats for writing about queer culture in his home country; Nicaraguan cartoonist Pedro X. Molina, who was forced to flee after his journalist colleagues were jailed or killed and his newspaper’s offices were occupied; and Algerian novelist Anouar Rahmani, who was threatened with imprisonment for writing about human rights.

The writers will also speak at Ithaca College on Thursday, September 22 at 5:30 p.m. (details here) and at Cornell on Friday, September 23 at noon (details here). Their visit is part of a three-city tour organized by City of Asylum programs in Ithaca, Pittsburgh, and Detroit and timed to coincide with Banned Books Week.

The tour is supported by a grant from Cornell University’s Migrations Global Grand Challenge and the Mellon Foundation’s Just Futures Initiative. The Migrations Initiative, part of Global Cornell, studies the movement of all living things through an interdisciplinary, multispecies lens, with a special focus on themes of racism, dispossession, and migration.

About the writers

Dmitry Bykov (Ithaca City of Asylum) is one of Russia’s best-known public intellectuals. He spent five days in a coma after falling ill during a speaking tour in 2019. An independent investigation blamed Russian security forces for poisoning him with the nerve agent Novichok. In addition to prohibiting him from teaching at the university level, the government has also barred him from appearing on state radio or TV. The author of more than 80 books, Bykov is currently a fellow of the Open Society University Network and a visiting critic at the Institute for European Studies, part of the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell.

Pwaangulongii Dauod (City of Asylum Detroit) is a novelist, essayist, and memoirist from Nigeria. His 2016 essay in Granta, “Africa’s Future Has No Space for Stupid Black Men,” sparked a national conversation about queer issues in Nigeria and provoked threats to his life. Woke Africa Magazine named him one of the “Best African Writers of the New Generation.” He is currently an Artist Protection Fund Fellow in residence at Wayne State University.

Pedro X. Molina (Ithaca City of Asylum) is a political cartoonist who fled Nicaragua during a crackdown on dissent in 2018. He was an International Writer in Residence at Ithaca College and was an Artist Protection Fund Fellow in residence at the Einaudi Center’s Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program at Cornell. Among his many honors is a 2021 Gabo Award, a 2019 Maria Moors Cabot Award from Columbia Journalism School, and the 2018 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award from Cartoonists Rights Network International.

Anouar Rahmani (City of Asylum Pittsburgh) is a novelist, journalist, and human rights defender from Algeria. He has faced legal harassment for his advocacy for individual freedom, environmental rights, and the rights of minorities, women, and LGBTQ+ people. In 2021, he was shortlisted for the Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards. He is currently an Artist Protection Fund Fellow in residence at Carnegie Mellon University.

About Cities of Asylum

The Cities of Asylum movement was born in the 1990s, after a group of writers led by Salman Rushdie formed the International Parliament of Writers and convinced governments in several European cities to provide one to two years of support for endangered writers. These “Cities of Asylum” pledged to protect not only the physical safety of writers, but also freedom of speech and publication.

Today, more than 75 cities around the world belong to the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). In the US, City of Asylum organizations in Pittsburgh, Ithaca, Detroit, and other communities help threatened writers find jobs, housing, and legal services, and advocate for human rights and freedom of expression.

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