The 2015 Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature, Svetlana Alexievich will be the guest of honor at the grand opening of City of Asylum @ Alphabet City on September 9 & 10, 2016. Her appearance will launch City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s expanded, year-round programming.
ICORN’s partner and member, CoA/Pittsburgh creates a thriving community for writers, readers, and neighbors whilst providing sanctuary to endangered literary writers, so that they can continue to write and not be silenced. They are behind the impressive project, Alphabet City, which generates new spaces for readings and performances, writing workshops and residencies for the project.
The Masonic Hall in the North Side of Pittsburgh will be the new home to City of Asylum’s offices and literary events, readings, workshops and musical performances. The upper floors have been renovated into rental apartments, to host exiled writers and others connected to the initiative.
“Alphabet City is the apex of our aspirations. The facility and its programmes are intended to be a unifying agent in the community, bridging the full array of economic, cultural, and racial diversity.” says co-founder and president of City of Asylum, Henry Reese said to Next Pittsburgh.
“In Europe, houses of literature promote the community,” he says. “There’s a lot of exchange going on between people—dialogues about literature, humanities and politics. That’s the model for Alphabet City.”
Throughout the past ten years CoA/Pittsburgh has been host to a row of performers and exiled writers. Alphabet City got its name from collecting hand written alphabets from all the visitors to CoA/Pittsburgh and Sampsonia Way over the years, and the alphabets are scattered all throughout the building.
The Opening Ceremony of Alphabet City
The opening of the Alphabet city on September 9 & 10 offers a public conversation with Svetlana Alexievich and Philip Gourevitch.
Winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature, Svetlana Alexievich will be the guest of honor at the grand opening of City of Asylum @ Alphabet City on September 9 & 10, 2016. Her appearance will launch our expanded, year-round programming.
Alexievich was born in Ukraine, but grew up in Belarus. As an investigative journalist and writer, she documents the emotional history of the Soviet and post-Soviet world.
Alexievich faced persecution from the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, and fled Belarus in 2000. From 2006–2008 she lived as writer-in-residence in Gothenburg, one of the 50 cities in the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). Her own life story demonstrates why ICORN is both necessary and important, and we are proud that City of Asylum Pittsburgh was chosen to be the U.S. headquarters of ICORN. We also thank ICORN for helping arrange Alexievich’s visit.
Philip Gourevitc is a long-time staff writer for The New Yorker, the former editor of The Paris Review, and the author of three books: The Ballad Of Abu Ghraib / Standard Operating Procedure (2008), A Cold Case (2001), and We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda (1998), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the George K. Polk Book Award, the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award, and the Guardian First Book Award. The book was also included in the Guardian’s list of the hundred greatest non-fiction books from the past two thousand five hundred years. Gourevitch’s books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and his reportage, essays, criticism, and short fiction, have appeared in numerous publications at home and abroad. In 2010 he was named a Chevallier de l’Ordre des Arts et Des Lettres in France. He is completing a new book, in which he revisits Rwanda, called, You Hide That You Hate Me And I Hide That I Know.
Pittsburgh City of Refuge
Pittsburgh City of Asylum (CoA/P) has existed for ten years, and last May, they signed in with ICORN during the ICORN Network Meeting in Amsterdam. A City of Asylum Exiled Writer Residency through CoA/P provides a stipend and health care for two years and housing for up to four years for literary writers who are in exile from their home countries and under threat of persecution because of their writing. CoA/P also offers a broad range of literary programs in different community settings, encouraging cross-cultural exchange. So far, CoA/P has hosted five exiled writers: Huang Xiang (China, 2004-06), Horacio Castellanos Moya (El Salvador, 2006-09), Khet Mar (Burma, 2009-12), Israel Centeno (Venezuela, 2010 – present), Yaghoub Yadali (Iran, 2013 – present) and currently Tuhin Das (Bangladesh, 2016-present).
CoA/P also hosts a parallel international residency program, and very notably, it has its own online magazine, Sampsonia Way, which aims to educate the public about threats to writers and literary expression, and create a community in which persecuted writers may thrive and literary culture is celebrated as a valued part of life. The magazine’s key staff includes exiled writers living on Sampsonia Way, and the idea behind the magazine was conceived based on the advice and experience of these exiled writers.
In the media
May 2016: Language as Art in Pittsburgh
May 2016: City of Asylum @ Alphabet City opening in September in Masonic Hall
September 2015: New Alphabet City Center by City of Asylum Pittsburgh
January 2015: The Masonic Hall will soon be home to Alphabet City