Belonging and Exile

Welcome to Fall! Our theme for 2023-24 is Belonging and Exile. No matter where we live, part of the human condition is to experience belonging and exile. This experience is heightened when we cannot return to our homes because we are banned from our country, like Wendy Guerra is from Cuba, or self exiled from Russia like Anna Starobinets, or like millions of Syrians, Iraqis and Ukrainians scattered across the world.

Yet, so many of us feel alienated even when we are home, craving safety and acceptance, yearning to be celebrated by our family and our society. Americans who leave America to see it from afar, like James Baldwin, and who return, to guide us like prophets. Americans who leave their home towns for other places to feel safer, to pursue opportunity, like the Great Migration north from the south, captured by the artist Jacob Lawrence in his panels.

Our theme for the year launches with 19-year old undergraduate, Alex Pham's exploration of home in his personal essay, "Art of Living." 

Sign Up for our free events in Maryland, Washington and Virginia, at a location near you. Wendy Guerra's translators, Nancy Naomi Carlson and Esperanza Hope Snyder read September 17th in Takoma Park, DC; you can meet Anna Starbonets, Russia's Steven King, on 22nd September at the Arts Club in DC; Ranjit Hoskote and Jennifer Robertson will launch their new books in Fairfax, VA on the 27th; and dinner will be served at Busboys and Poets on 29th September, featuring a Kurdish translation of Bachtyar Ali's novel by Kareem Abdulrahman. And so much more, on our events page.

What do we do with all this information? It's for you to pull up your calendar and come join us, as you plan your Fall, that's all. Together, we build spaces of belonging. And like Alex writes, we may be in for a surprise.

– Leeya Mehta, Sept 3, 2023