Literature lovers are going to swoon over this weekend's JLF Houston, a three-day event September 15 to 17, with happenings at Asia Society Texas, the University of Houston, Rothko Chapel and the Eternal Gandhi Museum. Back for its sixth annual outing, the Houston event brings an array of high-level creative talent to the Bayou City.
"This weekend JLF Houston brings to our city world-class writers as well as spotlighting Houston's own artists," Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, the best-selling author of The Mistress of Spices and The Forest of Enchantments, and a teacher in the University of Houston's highly regarded creative writing program, tells CultureMap.
"The festival enriches our cultural landscape with multi-cultural discussions ranging from India's freedom struggle and how it affected women to current-day challenges in Ukraine to cutting-edge astronomical discoveries. I hope Houstonians will make full use of this the-day bonanza, which also presents music and film and is followed each day by receptions where one can chat up-close with the presenters."
Look for an opening reception Friday evening at the University of Houston, which follows the festival's kickoff panel, "Ukraine: The Cost of War."
Saturday, September 16 is a day of presentations, panels, readings and discussions by some of the greatest names in books in movies. Taking place at Asia Society Houston and hosted jointly by Inprint, Asia Society and Teamwork Arts, the event is modeled after India's Jaipur Literature Festival, one of the world's most-renowned gatherings of authors, filmmakers and lovers of the written word.
Salaam! Mira Nair, Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni, and more
The day begins award-winning film-maker Mira Nair, known for movies like Mississippi Masala and Monsoon Wedding, in conversation with Sanjoy K. Roy, Teamwork Arts' managing director. Nair will discuss her cinematic language, the vocabulary of the moving image, and her special affinity for literary adaptation, including Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake.
Up next is the panel "Forbidden Pages: Banned, Burned and Censored." The ACLU Texas' Oni K. Blair, The Aztec Love God author Tony Diaz, and journalist, editor and chair of PEN International Writers in Prison chair Salil Tripathi are in conversation with retired HISD librarian Dorcas Hand. They'll talk about the rationale behind movements to ban books, and how ideas still thrive in the end.
In the first panel of the afternoon, "The Personal and the Political," award winning journalist Anjan Sundaram discusses his recent memoir, Breakup: A Marriage in Wartime, with Tripathi. The book explores the toll being a war correspondent takes on marriage, and how the scenes they bear witness to expose humanitarian crimes across the world.
Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni talks about decolonization and the devastating consequences of Partition, which form the backdrop of her latest novel, Independence, a sweeping saga of India in the last days of British rule, told from the intertwined perspectives of three sisters. She's in conversation with Pakistani-American writer and Gulf Coast Journal fiction editor Tayyba Maya Kanwal.
A Journey Through the Cosmos, Bandit Queens, and world peace
Additional sessions include Priyamvada Natarajan, a professor in Yale's department of physics and astronomy discusses her book, Mapping the Heavens: A Journey Through the Cosmos with Sanjoy K. Roy. Houston’s sixth Poet Laureate Aris Kian Brown, Nepali-Indian poet and writer Rohan Chhetri, and Assamese writer and poet Aruni Kashyap are in conversation with academic Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan.
Parini Shroff, author of The Bandit Queens, and Aruni Kashyap, author There is No Good Time for Bad News, His Father's Disease, and The House With a Thousand Stories will talk with academic and writer Mohan Ambikaipaker about the plurality of identity and a sense of belonging found in stories and poems by South Asian writers in the United States.
The day concludes with an author reception where participants can meet and greet the writers and presenters. More information is on the Asia Society Texas website.
To mark the beginning of World Peace Week, Sunday's sessions begin at the Rothko Chapel with music and a poetry reading. Salil Tripathi and Sita Kapadia are in conversation about "The Gandhis: The Story of Ba and Bapu" Sunday afternoon at the Eternal Gandhi Museum.