This year Ithaca City of Asylum’s “Voices of Freedom” event, held annually to observe Banned books/Freedom to Read Week, featured exiled Burmese writer and activist Khet Mar. The program was co-sponsored and hosted by the Tompkins County Public Library.
Khet Mar read from her work Sunday, October 2 at 2:00 p.m. to a full audience in the BorgWarner Community Room at the Tompkins County Public Library.
Founded in 2001, Ithaca City of Asylum (ICOA) is part of a worldwide network that supports writers whose works are suppressed, whose lives are threatened, whose cultures are vanishing, or whose languages are endangered. ICOA is a project of the Center for Transformative Action, Cornell University.
Khet Mar has been persecuted by the Burmese government for her political activism since she was 19. In 1991 she was sentenced to ten years in prison for protesting the house arrest of pro-democracy leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi, which prevented the leader from accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. After one year, Khet Mar was released during a period of national amnesty, but future threats of imprisonment led her to seek refuge in the United States in 2007.
After fleeing Burma, Khet Mar became a visiting fellow at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, and in 2010 she participated in the Pen World Voices Festival of International Literature. She is currently writer-in-residence for the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. She is the author of a novel, “Wild Snowy Night,” several collections of short stories, essays and poems. Her work has been translated into English and Japanese, has been broadcast on radio and has been made into a film.
This event was funded in part by Poets & Writers, Inc. with public funds from New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency. Additional support was provided by the Creative Writing Program, the Rose Goldsen Lecture Series, and the Flora Rose House at Cornell University; the Ithaca College Department of Writing; Wells College; Buffalo Street Books; Mia Restaurant; Za-Za’s Cucina; Gimme! Coffee; and an anonymous donor.
Khet Mar’s October 2 reading and the reception following it were free and open to the public.