PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University’s current International Writers Project (IWP) Fellow, Burmese fiction writer and practicing physician Ma Thida, has arrived to begin her year-long residency on campus. The IWP fellowship is given annually to one writer who has been subjected to political harassment, imprisonment oroppression in his or her country of origin. The fellowship provides a stipend and working space to the writer.
Thida will present the first on-campus reading of her work on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008, at 7:30 p.m. in the McCormack Family Theater, 70 Brown St. It is free and open to the public.
Author of the books The Sunflower and In the Shade of an Indian Almond Tree,Thida has also written many articles and short stories, many of them about “about ordinary people.” She published 60 short stories during her first years in medical school, 1984-1988. Thida completed her medical studies in 1991. In 1993, she was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Yongon’s Insein Jail for her work to promote democratic change in Burma. She was accused of “endangering the public peace, having contact with illegal organizations, and distributing unlawful literature.” After serving five years, six months, and six days, Thida was released in 1999 on humanitarian grounds. Upon her release, she worked as editor of a youth magazine as well as a surgeon at the Muslim Free Hospital, which treats poor patients at no cost.
Based this year at the Watson Institute for International Studies, Thida says she will spend her time thinking about her next novel. “The fellowship is a great opportunity. I'm quite free here.”
Thida is the sixth IWP Fellow. Her predecessors include Zimbabwean novelist Chenjerai Hove, Iranian novelists Moniro Ravanipour, Shahriar Mandanipour, and Shahrnush Parsipur, and Congolese playwright Pierre Mumbere Mujomba.
The International Writers Project
Brown University has a long history of providing support to international writers facing persecution and suppression of their work. The University has welcomed dozens of exiled writers at past festivals on campus and has hosted fellows from Cuba, China, the Congo, Somalia and Iran. Brown is a member of the International Academy for Scholarship and the Arts, a consortium of 20 colleges and universities committed to providing support for writers facing political oppression. Through its faculty and alumni, Brown has links to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and PEN.
Since 2003, the International Writers Project Fellowship at Brown University has provided institutional, artistic and social support to writers who face personal danger, oppression and/or threats to their livelihood in nations throughout the world. The fellowship, sponsored by a grant from the William H. Donner Foundation, is awarded annually to a writer who is unable to practice free expression in his or her homeland. In addition, the IWP sponsors festivals that celebrate the cultural heritage of each fellow and seek to increase awareness of the situation of international writers worldwide and in the IWP fellow’s homeland.