S5E3 Remembrance and Justice

18 Aug 2022
S5E3 Remembrance and Justice

Featured image credits: Julie Otsuka by Jean-Luc Bertini

Julie Otsuka talks to Bongani Kona about her three novels: When the Emperor was Divine, The Buddha in the Attic and The Swimmers. Their capacious conversation engages with painting, memory, community, the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War 2, book bans, writing in the first person plural and more.

Bongani Kona is a PEN SA board member. He is a writer, editor and lecturer in the Department of History at the University of the Western Cape. He edited Our Ghosts were Once People (Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2021).

Julie Otsuka lives in New York City and is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her first novel, When the Emperor Was Divine, won the 2003 Asian American Literary Award and the 2003 American Library Association’s Alex Award. Her second novel, The Buddha in the Attic, was an international best seller and won the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the 2011 Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction, among other awards. Her newest novel is The Swimmers. 

In this episode we stand in solidarity with Meral Şimşek, a Kurdish writer and poet from Turkey, and a member of Kurdish PEN. Julie shares a powerful message for Meral and reads an extract from a performance piece by Vietnamese American writer lê thị diễm thúy as a tribute. You can read more about Meral Şimşek’s case here: https://pen-international.org/news/turkey-verdict-expected-in-trial-of-kurdish-pen-member-and-writer-meral-simsek

In her introduction to the episode, PEN SA president Nadia Davids condemns the terrifying attack on Salman Rushdie on 12 August and sends good wishes to Rushdie for his recovery.

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