2013 Neustadt Festival Opens Today with ‘Spotlight on the Middle East’

The festival, which will take place on the University of Oklahoma campus from October 29 – November 1, will spotlight Palestinian-American novelist Naomi Shihab Nye, who is set to receive the $25,000 2013 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature:

Neustadt2013_Poster_Plain.jpg-767x1024The festival, sponsored by World Literature Today, will include nine public events with a focus on “world literature and Middle Eastern culture.” Along with music and discussions, the events feature Nye and Italo-Ethiopian writer Gabriella Ghermandi.

Although it’s billed as a celebration of Palestinian culture, the only other Palestinian author seems to be Ibtisam Barakat.

Nye, who is also a prominent poet, has written several books of poetry and fiction for children, including Habibi (1997), for which she won the Jane Addams Children’s Book award.

Also this week, the nine visiting writers — I guess Oklahomans like the number 9 — will convene to select the winner of the $50,000 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. The global lit prize, which was first awarded in 1970, has been called a bellwether for the Nobel. Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan is one of the nine candidates for the prize; he was nominated by Palestinian-American poet Fady Joudah, one of the nine jurors.

The winner will be announced on Nov. 1.

The other Neustadt nominees are César Aira, Mia Couto, Duong Thu Huong, Edward P. Jones, Ilya Kaminsky, Chang-rae Lee, Edouard Maunick and Haruki Murakami.

The Neustadt has an original format: Each of the judges publicly nominates one author, and then the group gets together to select one of the nine nominees as their winner.

The full list of this week’s Neustadt events can be found online. All events are free and open to the public.

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