When the nonprofit Literary Cleveland, whose mission is to create and nurture a vibrant literary arts community in Northeast Ohio, put out a call for immigration stories by Northeast Ohio writers, the group was flooded with responses.
Now many of them – written by immigrants from Syria, Iran, Colombia, Poland, China, Azerbaijan and elsewhere, many of whom are not professional writers but have powerful stories to tell – will be heard in front of a live audience during the upcoming Cleveland Humanities Festival.
Crossing Borders: Immigrant Narratives, a staged reading of original work, is set for Saturday, March 18th and Sunday, March 19th at 7:00 p.m. in the Cleveland State University student center ballroom at 2121 Euclid Ave, SC 319. The events are cosponsored by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities and Cleveland State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
The staged reading of short essays, fiction and poems is directed by Marc Moritz, who has assembled a cast of professional actors to perform the pieces. The stories in the show are provocative, moving, heart-wrenching and funny. The authors address the emotional journey of crossing borders, both literal and metaphorical, and what it means to be both an immigrant and an American.
In “The Buttonhook Men,” Jill Sell writes about her Polish ancestors’ uncertain passage through Ellis Island, which could easily have been rejected. “Food and Family,” a piece by Hathaway Brown student Crystal Zhao, tells the story of a second-generation Chinese immigrant bonding with her mother over stories of childhood rebellion. The poem “Genesis” by Daniel Gray-Kontar addresses the journey of African-Americans from the south to northern cities like Cleveland during the Great Migration.
Additionally, several stories in Crossing Borders: Immigrant Narratives deal with recent immigration experiences. In the raw “Struggling to Survive,” Syrian immigrant Bayan Aljbawi writes about leaving her troubled homeland for the U.S., an experience she describes as “escaping from one suffering to another: new culture, new country and different language.”
“My husband, my baby and I were lucky,” she concludes. “The only question left is this: What about too many others who did not get a chance to do the same?”
And in “American Promise,” award-winning novelist and Case professor Thrity Umrigar – who immigrated here from India over 30 years ago – confronts the current political climate and asks if the U.S. “will be a country that is as small and narrow as its fears” or “as large and glorious as its dreams, as splendid as the hopes of millions of its citizens, immigrant and native born…?”
Literary Cleveland’s mission is to create and nurture a vibrant literary arts community in Northeast Ohio. For more information on upcoming events, check out our website at Literary Cleveland or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.