Helon HabilaMonday, July 29, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Join us for reading with Helon Habila presenting his newly released novel, Travelers, a “startlingly imaginative” exploration of the African diaspora in Europe. This program will open with a reading from City of Asylum’s new writer-in-residence Bewketu Seyoum from Ethiopia.
In Travelers, internationally acclaimed writer Helon Habila delivers a beautifully sculpted work of fiction that examines the lives of “travelers”—self-willed exiles and refugees alike. Accompanying his wife on a prestigious arts fellowship in Berlin, a Nigerian scholar finds there are no walls between his privileged, secure existence and the stories of other Africans on the move: among them: a transgender film student seeking the freedom to live an authentic life; a Libyan doctor who lost his wife and son in the waters of the Mediterranean; a Somalian shopkeeper who tried to save his young daughter from a marriage forced on her by an al-Shabab commander.
His sense of identity begins to dissolve as he can no longer separate himself from others’ horrors,and he realizes he is inextricably connected to those lives that have touched his. From a Berlin nightclub to a refugee deportation camp in Sicily to the London apartment of a Malawian poet, his empathy with the lives of other “travelers” brings him to a new journey, a reverse migration in pursuit of the universal dream of love and home.
Helon Habila is the author of Oil on Water, Measuring Time, Waiting for an Angel, and The Chibok Girls. He is a professor of creative writing at George Mason University and lives in Virginia with his wife and three children.
Bewketu Seyoum is an writer, poet, essayist, and entertainer, born in Mankusa, Ethiopia. Honored as Ethiopian Best Novelist of the Year in 2008 and Best Young Author in 2009, he is widely regarded as one of the leading poets of his generation. He has published six books of stories, poetry, novels, and collections of essays in English and his native language Amarhic. He is also well-known for his comedic writing and performing his short sketches. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Addis Ababa University. His works explore the politically and culturally repressive environment of his country. Common themes in his work include corruption of government officials, police brutality, and the absurdities of tribalism. He frequently uses humor in his work to broach politically and socially taboo subjects rarely aired in the Ethiopian public sphere. In 2011 he was assaulted by someone claiming offense at his articles. Bewketu was a Research Fellow at Brown University from 2015-2016 and is currently a writer-in-residence at City of Asylum Pittsburgh.