Current Affairs In Conversation at the Second Annual Jaipur Literature Festival at Boulder

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More than 70 authors joined in conversation with the community as they presented new takes on current events.

The Jaipur Literature Festival at Boulder

The city embraced the Jaipur Literature Festival as we brought a taste of India’s colorful heritage along with world-class literary discussion to one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

The second annual Jaipur Literature Festival at Boulder which took place September 23-25 at the Main Boulder Public Library, featured more than 50 sessions that covered topics ranging from immigration and black lives to remembering war, terror and trafficking. More than 70 authors joined in conversation with the community as they presented new takes on current events. There were an estimated 12,000 footfalls at the Main Boulder Public Library over the weekend.

Sessions began Saturday with The Treasures of the Dragon Kingdom, with Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck discussing her beloved Drukyul, Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon. She regaled the audience with stories of her homeland’s spirituality, beauty and environmental compassion. Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones presented her with a proclamation by John W. Hickenlooper, the Governor of Colorado, who proclaimed September 24, 2016 as “JLF at Boulder and Her Majesty The Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck Day.”

“We are honored to receive this great distinction in our second year in Boulder,” said Festival Producer Sanjoy Roy. “The city embraced the Jaipur Literature Festival as we brought a taste of India’s colorful heritage along with world-class literary discussion to one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”

Sessions began Saturday with The Treasures of the Dragon Kingdom, with Her Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck discussing her beloved Drukyul, Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon. She regaled the audience with stories of her homeland’s spirituality, beauty and environmental compassion. Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones presented her with a proclamation by John W. Hickenlooper, the Governor of Colorado, who proclaimed September 24, 2016 as “JLF at Boulder and Her Majesty The Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck Day.”

“We are honored to receive this great distinction in our second year in Boulder,” said Festival Producer Sanjoy Roy. “The city has embraced the Jaipur Literature Festival as we bring a taste of India’s colorful heritage along with world-class literary discussion to one of the most beautiful cities in the world.”

Hard-hitting and thought-provoking sessions continued throughout the weekend. Arthur Flowers opened the session, “Black Lives Matter: A Dream Deferred,” with a blow of a horn and a call to “walk on the holy ground of this conversation.” Carolyn Finney, Marcia Douglas, and Jovan Mays forayed right in with a discussion about Black Lives Matter and its collective cry from a group of people who have worked to be seen and heard for the past 400 years. “It’s nothing new, but it’s time to wake America out of its stupor and make us uncomfortable with the truth.” These writers write to make lives visible. As Arthur Flowers said, “It’s getting worse because it’s getting better.”

Poet Laureate Jovan Mays, shared in the session Guns and Roses how he was selected to unify the community through words after the Aurora, Colorado movie theatre shooting, Jovan’s home town. He asked himself what he could use for writing prompts that would allow someone to write about something they had previously kept quiet about. “This writing is self-confessional. I take my hardest things and write them into existence. Many are impacted by hard issues and it’s challenging to put it into a body of writing but we’ve found it helps people process these tragedies and traumas,” says Mays.

In his opening statement on Saturday afternoon’s panel on the American political climate, “Democracy and the Game of Thrones,” author Andrew Lam commented on the unfortunate reality that he has had to remove people from his digital living room simply because their opinions differ from his own, in the face of this difference expressed with brazen hatred that is politically and even racially motivated. “We live in a world where constructive conversation is next to impossible,” Lam commented. Anonymity in a digital space begets aggressive conversations which would never take place were people speaking around a dining room table together.

“All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory,” says Pulitzer Prize winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen during the session “Nothing Ever Dies.” Andrew Lam, senior editor of New America Media and former commentator on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” concurs. When he and his family get together for dinner, in minutes the conversation turns to lives they left behind in Vietnam. Those who live and those who die remain within the collective memory; trauma never ends. When we memorialize the names of the 58,000 men and women at the Vietnam War Memorial, we forget the millions of casualties in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and we forget those soldiers who came back, alive but wounded, mentally and physically, and their families who suffer with them, as well as the refugees displaced by the conflict.

“In 1990, America was suffering from an unprecedented number of gun deaths in Boston. We heard about homicides and multiple shootings daily, all concentrated in poor and vulnerable communities of color. We became numb to it. We had a strict code of silence in our neighborhoods. The words oppression, poverty, murder and drugs were all things we could not say for fear of being run out of town as a communist,” said author Michael Patrick MacDonald in the session Ideas of ‘America.’ “My optimism for today and the future lies in the restorative and transformative justice movements,” “Rooted in the Native American process of justice, there are four pillars of justice: accountability, truth, repair and forgiveness.”

In the session The Terror: Understanding Our Times, former U.S. ambassador to India and current writer and diplomat Robert Blackwill said "We must understand the reasons behind these societal convulsions of terrorism. But we can't excuse their actions in the process." Artist, Daisy Rockwell noted "History is written by the victors, and terrorists often become romanticized folk heroes in many cultures. We need to keep that in mind throughout history."

Ruchira Gupta, writer and founder of the non-profit Apne Aap Women Worldwide, spoke of the problems of sex trafficking in India and the brave group of former prostitutes who with her help banded together to change the future. “They told their story because they wanted to save their daughters from the same fate they had. We all formed a circle to save each other, changing our lives by amplifying voices and helping the greater cause.”

Speaking of the the importance of the upcoming election, author G. Willow Wilson had this to say about her fellow Millennial generation: There’s a very Apocalyptic mood among that generation right now, due to issues with climate change, politics and more. The younger generation doesn’t want to think about the future because they believe it may never come. But it’s not about just being right, it’s about being constructive in some way.”

Arthur Flowers summed it up by saying “No doubt about it, we’re in trouble now. But I firmly believe in the human spirit and that we will meet whatever challenges we need to meet.” Poet Anne Waldman agreed, saying “We must embrace our negative capability-being able to take your seat with the contradictions without getting lost in the process.”

The sessions concluded Sunday night with a closing ceremony featuring music by members of Rajasthan Josh, followed by an authors and VIP dinner at the Highland City Club with more music and merriment.

About Jaipur Literature Festival
In its 9th year, Jaipur Literature Festival is the world’s largest free literature festival. The Festival drew some 330,000 people to Diggi Palace in the Rajasthani capital this past January. The Festival serves as a beacon of free speech around the world, giving rise to more than 200 other literature festivals throughout South Asia and countries around the world, including JLF at Boulder. Festival directors include world-renowned writers and publishers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple, and it is produced by Sanjoy K. Roy, managing director of Teamwork Arts.

About Teamwork Arts
For over 25 years, Teamwork Arts has taken India to the world and brought the world to India. Each year, Teamwork produces 26 annual festivals in 30 cities across 12 different countries, including Australia, Canada, Egypt, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Israel, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the UK and USA. Teamwork produces one of the world’s largest free literary gatherings, the annual Jaipur Literature Festival, international festivals Shared History in South Africa, Eye On India in the United States and India by the Bay in Hong Kong, and many more. http://www.teamworkarts.com

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Lisa Bell
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