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Edward Hower’s Latest Book is an Eloquent Collection of Essays


Edward Hower, a member of the ICOA board, published his latest book, What Can You Do: E.Hower's book 2014Personal Essays and Travel Writing, in October. A witch-haunted temple in India; carrying a spear in New York City operas; witnessing a revolution in Guatemala; mediums, spiritual seekers, and frauds; teaching at a maximum security prison; and how love rides the rails are but a few of the subjects in this lively and eloquent collection of essays about inner quests and journeys of discovery to out-of-the-way destinations.

Hower previously published eight novels and two books of stories, including The Pomegranate Princess and Other Tales from India (Wayne State University Press, 1991), a collection of folk tales. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, Smithsonian, American Scholar, Epoch, Southern Review, and elsewhere. Hower has been awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and two Fulbright grants to India.

After Hower graduated from Cornell University in 1963, he lived in East Africa for three years, where he taught high school, sang in local nightclubs, and wrote his first novel, The New Life Hotel. Later, he earned a masters degree in Anthropology from the University of California, doing fieldwork among Los Angeles street gangs.

Like many writers, Hower has held a variety of jobs: a salesman, a counselor at girls’ reformatory (the subject of his second novel, Wolf Tickets), and a general of the Egyptian army (a non-singing role he performed in the New York City Opera Company production of Handel’s Julius Caesar). More recently, he has taught at several American universities and has given writing workshops in Tobago, Greece, Sri Lanka, Britain, Nepal, and Key West, Florida. Many of these classes he has co-taught with his wife, the novelist Alison Lurie. He has lived in Ithaca, New York since 1975, and has two grown children, Dan and Lana.

An interview with the author about this book is available at The Five Points website, a journal of literature and art. Barbara Adams, another ICOA board member, wrote a review of this book that recently appeared in the Ithaca Times. What Can You Do: Personal Essays and Travel Writing, is now available at local bookstores and via the web at Cayuga Lake Books and

Ithaca Out Loud: Ithaca Actors Read Ithaca Authors


Celebrating the freedom to read and write in an entertaining program, “Ithaca Out Loud” showcased the talents of popular local actors reading selections from the works of five nationally recognized local authors. Ithaca City of Asylum and the Tompkins County Public Library hosted the program, ICOA’s Voices of Freedom event for 2014.

• Holly Adams read “One Hundred Dead Pilgrims” by Eleanor Henderson.

• Dave Romm read from Romancing Spain by Lamar Herrin.

• Phil Hart read “The Black Swans” by Alison Lurie.

• Dick Furnas read poetry by Caroline Manring.

• Masa Gibson read “Maintenance” by Jacob White.

“Ithaca Out Loud” took place on Thursday, November 20, to a full crowd in the BorgWarner Community Meeting Room at the library. Everyone had a great time, especially after the performances when the audience was able to mingle with the authors and actors and engage in informal discussions over refreshments.

The Writers:

  • Eleanor Henderson, a professor in the Department of Writing at Ithaca College, is the author of numerous short stories and essays and the novel Ten Thousand Saints, which was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2011 by the New York Times.
  • Lamar Herrin’s most recent novel is Fractures (2013). His short stories have appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, Epoch, and the Paris Review, which awarded him its Aga Kahn fiction prize. His novel The Lies Boys Tell won the Associated Writing Programs’ fiction award.
  • Alison Lurie, is the author of ten novels, including Foreign Affairs (Pulitzer Prize 1985). An authority on children’s literature, her most recent work, The Language of Houses, is a study of the social psychology of architecture.
  • Caroline Manring, who teaches in the English Department at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, is the author most recently of the collection Manual for Extinction and a poetry editor of the Seneca Review. She is the winner of the 2012 National Poetry Review Book Contest.
  • Jacob White is the author of the story collection Being Dead in South Carolina. His fiction has appeared in many journals, including the Georgia Review, New Letters, Salt Hill, and the Sewanee Review, from which he received the Andrew Lytle Prize in Fiction.

The Actors:

  • Holly Adams, a member of SAF/AFTA, has performed on stage, in film, and as a narrator of audiobooks.
  • Dick Furnas, the proprietor of a company specializing in data analysis software for ecology, has performed in several ensemble productions of the Ithaca Theater Company’s Actors Workshop and in many Ithaca College student films.
  • Masa Gibson, a former opera singer, has appeared locally with Theater Incognita and the Readers Theater of Ithaca, as well as in film, on television, and in web series.
  • Philip Hart is an aspiring actor and voice artist residing in Syracuse, NY.  Currently a student at the Actors Workshop of Ithaca, he hopes to pursue acting as a full-time endeavor.
  • David Romm, a longtime member of the Ithaca theater community, has appeared on stage at the Hangar Theater and in Ithaca College films.

Voices of Freedom 2014 was funded in part by a New York State grant administered by the Community Arts Partnership. Ithaca City of Asylum, a partnership of the Ithaca community, Ithaca College, and Cornell University, is part of a worldwide network of cities of asylum, supporting writers whose works are suppressed, whose lives are threatened, whose cultures are vanishing, and whose languages are endangered. The most recent writer, Sonali Samarasinghe from Sri Lanka, has been teaching at Ithaca College and was featured in several local newspaper articles, including the Ithaca Times.

A Voice for Freedom


Sonali Samarasinghe, Ithaca City of Asylum’s fifth writer in residence, read from her new poetry chapbook, The Land My Father Gave Me, and her upcoming nonfiction book on Sri Lankan media and politics on April 9th at 5:30 pm in the Handwerker Gallery at Ithaca College. The Land My Father Gave Me, published by Ithaca press Vista Periodista, is Samarasinghe’s first book published in the U.S. and it contains an introduction by Ithaca College Professor of Writing Katharyn Howd Machan.

The reading marks the end of Samarasinghe’s two year term as the Ithaca City of Asylum writer-in-residence and Visiting Scholar in Residence for the Ithaca College Honors Program in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

“In the short time Sonali has been with us in Ithaca, she has shown us what true courage looks like,” said Bridget Meeds, board chair for Ithaca City of Asylum. “We are thrilled to join in celebrating her work.”

Sonali Samarasinghe is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist. A native of Sri Lanka, Samarasinghe practiced law there for twenty years and worked as a journalist focusing on human rights, including government corruption and women’s issues. She was forced to flee Sri Lanka in 2009 after her husband was assassinated and her family threatened.

ICOA is part of a worldwide network of cities of asylum and is a project of the Center for Transformative Action. It supports writers whose works are suppressed, whose lives are threatened, whose cultures are vanishing, and whose languages are endangered.

Samarasinghe to Teach on Challenges to Justice


Sonali Samarasinghe, Ithaca City of Asylum visiting writer and scholar in the Ithaca College Honors program, will teach a one-credit course connected to the upcoming Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF).

Justice: What’s the right thing to do?

From price gouging to disaster capitalism, from corruption and waste to repression and genocide, individuals and governments every day are guilty of exploitation and inhumanity. Each day we are faced with difficult decisions that challenge our moral compass. In this course we will analyze the nature of justice and what it takes to do the right thing. Students will be presented with real-life situations and asked to make their own decisions. We will discuss how different decisions may result in surprising outcomes, and why harmonious decisions based on morality could spark disharmony and conflict, while violent decisions based on self-interest may allow for peaceful and just outcomes. As part of the course, students will attend FLEFF screenings.

Sonali Samarasinghe
Justice: What’s the right thing to do? GCOM 10500-01 CRN 43886
Wednesday 3:00-4:50 p.m.
March 17-May 12, Williams 222

Samarasinghe Judges the Dissonance Project


Sonali Samarasinghe, ICOA’s writer-in-residence, served as one of the jurors for “The Dissonance Project,” a writing contest for high school students. The contest was sponsored by Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF) at Ithaca College. In an interview about her work as a juror for “The Dissonance Project,” Samarasinghe stated that she is “delighted to have the opportunity to be a juror in one of FLEFF’s many intellectually stimulating projects. In keeping with the broad theme of dissonance and as part of the FLEFF umbrella, I am also teaching a mini course titled “Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do?” The full interview is available here.

FLEFF embraces and interrogates sustainability across all of its forms: economic, social, ecological, political, cultural, technological, and aesthetic. They recently sponsored their seventeenth annual Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, from March 31through April 6, 2014. The 2014 Festival Theme was DISSONANCE. “Dissonance in all its forms is to be celebrated,” said Samarasinghe, “because through conflict comes new beginnings, fresh ideas, evolved thinking and change. Disorder will eventually beget order and without friction the bow cannot make sweet harmony. It is [the] evil that forces you towards the good, death that brings life, and the ugly that draws you to the beautiful.”

New Publications from ICOA Board Members


A play, “Rat-tat-tat,” by David Guaspari, is featured in The Best Ten-Minute Plays 2013, edited by Lawrence Harbison, published by Smith and Kraus.  It’s just come out.

Christopher Gonzales won the 2014 S. I. Newhouse School Prize for Creative Nonfiction for his piece, “Mother, Father, Memory, Me.” The story appears in Stone Canoe 8, released in January.

Ithaca City of Asylum at the Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair



Ithaca City of Asylum joined fifty other local non-profit organizations at the Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair on December 7, 2013,  at the First Presbyterian Church at Dewitt Park. During the fair, participants had the chance to donate a gift to a charity in honor of a loved one—the perfect gift for the person on your list who already had all the material goods he or she might want. When you made a donation to ICOA, you received a lovely Acorn Design holiday card with an insert explaining your gift to the recipient.

ICOA's table at the 2013 Alternative Gift Fair

ICOA’s table at the 2013 Alternative Gift Fair

Journalist, Educator Challenges Corruption


Sonali Samarasinghe, Ithaca City of Asylum’s writer in residence, is the focus of a front page interview in the Ithaca Journal. The story describes Sonali as an award-winning investigative journalist, editor, and lawyer from Sri Lanka who worked for more than two decades fighting for justice in her country and exposing government corruption. The wide-ranging interview covers her work in Sri Lanka, her need to flee her home country, and her life now in Ithaca as a scholar in residence at Ithaca College. The full interview, including a video of Sonali, can be found here.

Board Member Publishes Book on Families and Fracking


Ithaca City of Asylum board member, Lamar Herrin, has recently published his latest book, Fractures. This is a novel that uses the issue of hyrofracking to provide the context for a story about family and connections. Herrin, a professor emeritus of creative writing and contemporary literature at Cornell University, talks about his new work with fellow board member Barbara Adams in an interview published in the Ithaca Journal.

As part of the discussion, the author talks about the location of the novel and the use of hydrofracking. “I’m a writer for whom place is very important. If you write about a place, you preserve it. One of the reasons writers write is to hold onto things, so things don’t vanish out from under them. So I did feel the need to write about Ithaca. I love this place, and I realized it was time to write about it. And the issue that was pushing itself in my face was hydrofracking.

It’s a provocative social issue that has to do with land, water, the air we breathe. These are the kind of issues novelists go for — the more basic and elemental, the more wide-reaching the book is going to be. The big problem was dealing with hydrofracking in a non-polemical way. I struggled to suppress my own personal feelings about the wisdom of fracking in the service of a novel and characters who are responding to it differently. All the characters, absolutely every one, has mixed feelings about whether to drill or not; none is a clear advocate or opponent of it.”

Fractures is an intense family drama, and nothing is more personal or family-oriented than the land. And this is family land.

The full interview is available here.

Park Foundation Awards Grant to ICOA


The Park Foundation has announced a grant of $10,000 to Ithaca City of Asylum, to be used to fund the organization’s activities in the next two years.

“We are deeply grateful to the Park Foundation for this new commitment,” says Bridget Meeds, ICOA chair. “The foundation was our first funder to step forward in 2001 as we began our work, and has provided funding continuously to ICOA since then. Their support has made our work possible.”


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