Readings and Remembrance: Writing and Witness
interviewed by Unoma Azuah and Riad Ismat

Please join the Chicago City of Refuge Initiative as we discuss writing as an act of witness as Chicago City of Refuge writers Unoma Azuah and Riad Ismat interview scholar Wendy Pearlman and International Vice president of PEN, Lucina Kathmann.

SUNDAY 15 OCTOBER 2017 | 1 PM – 3 PM


___This day of conversation is also one of commemoration___


Asesinatos y desapariciones en México Enero 2000 – Septiembre de 2017 DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS 2017

____________________ About our Presenters ________________

WENDY PEARLMAN is the Martin and Patricia Koldyke Outstanding Teaching Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University, where she specializes in the Middle East. She is the author of three books.

On “We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria”

Based on hundreds of interviews across the Middle East and Europe, WENDY PEARLMAN’s “We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria” (HarperCollins, 2017) offers a collection of intimate testimonials and poetic fragments from a cross-section of Syrians whose lives have been transformed by revolution, war, and exile. Wendy is the Martin and Patricia Koldyke Outstanding Teaching Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University.


LUCINA KATHMANN nació en Estados Unidos, en Albany NY, en 1942. Es la primera de cuatro hijas de dos médicos y se graduó en las Universidades de Harvard y Northwestern. Se mudó a San Miguel de Allende, en el corazón de México, en 1978, donde todavía vive en la casa donde ella y su esposo Carlos Kuschinski, criaron a sus propios dos hijos y seis más dejados huérfanos por su madre mexicana, una querida amiga que murió en el parto del sexto niño.
En 1986, Lucina se afilió con el PEN Internacional, la asociación mundial más grande de escritores, con centros en más de 100 países, y fue tan activa en la lucha que culminó con la creación de su Comité de Escritoras en 1991. Sirvió de editora para el boletín trilingüe del Comité durante 11 años y es ahora Vicepresidenta Internacional del PEN, viajando por todo el mundo para promover su mensaje. En su propio pueblo es un miembro de larga data y actualmente la tesorera del centro del PEN local, el PEN de San Miguel.


LUCINA KATHMANN was born in the United States, in Albany, NY in 1942, the first of four daughters born to two physicians. Educated at Harvard and Northwestern Universities, she moved to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico’s heartland in 1978, where she still lives in the house where she and her husband, Charles Kuschinski, raised their own two sons and six orphaned by the death of their Mexican mother, a dear friend who died in childbirth with the sixth child.

In 1986, Lucina joined PEN International, the largest worldwide association of writers, with centers in over 100 counties, and was active in the struggle which culminated in the creation of its Women Writers Committee in 1991. She served as editor of the committee’s trilingual newsletter for 11 years, and is currently an International Vice president of PEN, traveling all over the world to promote its message of freedom of expression. In her hometown, Lucina is a longtime member and currently treasurer of the local PEN center, San Miguel PEN.

On “Private Spaces Public Places: a woman at home in the world”

“Private Spaces Public Places: a woman at home in the world”(Madeira Press, 2017) a collection of 20 plus essays finding the author, LUCINA KATHMANN, in widely varied roles and spaces: mentoring math students in Chicago; sampling sheep’s brains as the honored guest of the Kurdish PEN chapter; traveling the world as a Vice- President of PEN International, always encouraging women writers working at great odds to make their voices heard.

Our interviewers for the night include: 

Riad Ismat is a prolific Syrian playwright, short story and screenplay writer, besides a literary and arts critic. He has to his credit over a dozen plays, six collections of stories and many books of criticism published in four Arabic countries in Syria, Lebanon, Qatar and the UAE.

He won Germany’s Deutche Welle prize for best Arabic short story in 1993 and was an honoree and a jury member of several international theater and film festivals in Kuala Lumpur and Cairo in particular. He directed and adapted many plays for Damascus National Theater and the Academy of Dramatic Arts, especially works by Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams. His television drama Holako (30 episodes) won the award of Best Historical Arab TV Series in Tunisia, 2003.

He served as Syria’s ambassador to Pakistan and Qatar, then, was appointed Minister of Culture until he stepped down due to his disapproval of violence in mid 2012 and fled Syria to live in the US.

Riad Ismat taught Screenplay writing and Performance at Northwestern University and he still works as a research scholar at Buffett Institute for Global Studies.

Unoma Azuah teaches writing at the Illinois Institute of Art, Chicago. She is also a writing coach for the City Colleges of Chicago: Olive Harvey Campus. In 2011 she was listed as one of the top professors at small private colleges in the United States in the online publication, Affordable/Private Colleges and Universities in the United States. Additionally, she is recognized by The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education under the topic, “Honors for Four Black Educators.”  A prolific author and much sought after speaker, Azuah has been a guest lecturer at such institutions as Queens University in Kingston, Canada; Maynooth University, in Ireland; and State University of New York (SUNY) in Oneonta.  She discusses a wide range of subjects from Literature to Human Rights. Her research and activism focus on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights in Nigeria.  Her writing awards include the Hellman/Hammett Award; the Urban Spectrum Award for her debut novel, Sky-high Flame; and the Snyder-Aidoo Book Award for her novel, Edible Bones.  Her undergraduate degree in English is from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.  She has an MA in English from Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio and an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.



Chicago City of Refuge Inniatives are sponsored by
the Ann Ida Gannon Center for Women and Leadership
in association with Chicago Network for Justice & Peace,
and Guild Literary Complex

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