International Writers Project

Free expression, especially creative writing, is still challenged by regimes throughout the world. More than a third of the world’s population lives in countries where freedom of the press is actively hindered, and writers regularly experience censorship and persecution when publishing their works.

This International Writers Project makes available to an international writer who works in fiction, drama, or poetry a residency to practice his or her craft in safety within a supportive environment. The project is a partnership between Brown’s Graduate Program in Literary Arts and the Watson Institute. The William H. Donner Foundation is funding the initiative, with additional help from the President’s office.

International Writers Project Fellows Dul Johnson, of Nigeria, and Kho Tararith, of Cambodia, are currently in residence at the Watson Institute. Johnons, from the Tarok nation in Plateau State, Nigeria, is a fiction writer, television producer, and filmmaker. Kho is a poet and writer of short fiction and an activist addressing subjects including Cambodia’s societal and educational problems, the environmental destruction of forests in his country, and the lives of Cambodian refugees in the United States.

Ma Thida was the sixth IWP fellow. A Burmese fiction writer, physician, and human rights activist, she is the author of The Sunflower and In the Shade of an Indian Almond Tree, among other fiction titles. She was sentenced in 1993 to 20 years imprisonment in Rangoon’s Insein Jail for her work to promote democratic change as a campaign assistant to Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel laureate and one of the founders of Myanmar’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy.

Chenjerai Hove, of Zimbabwe, was the fifth IWP fellow. He is the author of four novels: Bones, Shadows, Ancestors, and, in his native Shona, Masimba Avanhu? (Is This the People’s Power?). He also has written three volumes of poetry, books of essays, and articles as a freelance journalist. Widely regarded as a leading figure of post-colonial Zimbabwean literature, he has been the recipient of honors including a 1987 Zimbabwe Writing Award, a 1989 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, and a 2001 German-Afrika Award for contributing to freedom of expression through his work as a newspaper columnist.

In 2006-2007, Shahryar Mandanipour and Moniro Ravanipour, both of Iran, were in residence.

Mandanipour, the third International Writers Project Fellow, is an award-winning Iranian author who won the Mehregan Award for the best Iranian children’s novel of 2004; the 1998 Golden Tablet Award for best fiction of the past 20 years in Iran; and Best Film Critique at the Press Festival in Tehran in 1994.

Ravanipour, the fourth fellow, is also from Iran. She has had eight books published in Iran, with two more under review by her country’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Among her novels – some of them translated in the West – are The Drowned, Heart of Steel, and Gypsy by Fire.

Pierre Mumbere Mujomba was the second International Writers Project Fellow. He has received much acclaim as the author of the novel Ecce ego (Hatier International, 2002) and the play, La dernière enveloppe (Lansman, 2002). Conversely, the negative response toward his plays by Congolese authorities forced him to flee the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2003.

Shahrnush Parsipour, an Iranian novelist, was the first International Writers Project Fellow and a Watson Institute visiting fellow for 2003.

In addition to supporting these writers, the International Writers Project has also featured a speaker series focused on human rights and free expression globally and a festival highlighting the particular national artistic and political identity of the resident writer. The 2006 festival featured several Iranian writers, past International Writers Project Fellows, 2006 Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, and noted author Salman Rushdie.

Brown University has a tradition of welcoming international writers who have experienced censorship. The project continues to grow from its roots in 1989, when novelist and International Writers Project Director Robert Coover invited three distinguished Chinese writers to join Brown’s Creative Writing Program following the Tiananmen Square incident.


Comments are closed.