Monday, March 14, 2016

News Briefs 3.14.16

For Perhaps the First Time, We Will Have North Korean Literature

A collection of short stories has been smuggled out of North Korea is generating buzz in literary scenes across the globe.

The Accusation was originally published in South Korea in 2014 after being smuggled out of North Korea by a relative of the author; the manuscripts pages were hidden amongst a selection of writings by former North Korean President Kim Il-sung. While there has been North Korean fiction published in the last few years, it is mostly the work of those who have escaped North Korea--it is all but unheard of in the publishing world to find fiction by a writer still living within North Korea's borders.

The author goes by the pseudonym Bandi and his identity is allegedly known by only three people worldwide. Bandi is a member of the Central Committee of the Chosun Writer's Alliance, the official literary organization of North Korea, and has written for several government sanctioned magazines. However, Bandi allegedly became disillusioned with the North Korean regime and wrote his short story collection as an act of protest.

The collection is set in 1990's North Korea and depicts the lives of several ordinairy citizens. "They are personal stories the illuminate the umbrella of horror that North Koreans live under all the time," said Bandi's literary agent Barbara Zitwer, who has worked with several Korean authors over the years. Bandi's stories are not only powerful for their content, but they are also beautifully written. Comparisons are being drawn to Chekov and Gogol, as well as Ionesco.

The rights to The Accusation, have been purchased by Grove Press in North America. Rights have also been sold in England, Japan, and Taiwan. Global Spanish rights, and as well as French and Dutch rights are in negotiation. Zitwer expects to close in several other territories soon, as well.

A committee has been formed in New York to nominate Bandi for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Yet Another Bit of Discourse About Generational Divide

Don't take my title for disdain - I'm actually pretty happy about this. The Guardian has just come out with a special series on Millennials. As a new generation starts to emerge, Generation Y is getting more and more attention. Which makes sense, because within 5-10 years, kids who know nothing but iPhones and Instagram will be the focus of all these studies, not us. Although largely UK based, the series "Millennials" explores the gap between members of Generation Y and their parents on a global scale as well.
It's a very accessible site that offers statistical information that may shatter many expectations that detractors of Millennials often have. There are also quite a few articles that report on Generation Y's economic future, and a video that compares members of Generation Y and their parents in regard to their experiences with drugs, sex, and jobs. The Guardian has made this series interactive, with a quiz, guides and videos that easily express the reality of the generational divide, while also busting many myths about Millennials.
Despite there already being such a huge discourse on Generation Y, this series is important in its accessibility and level of interaction. It takes statistical data and frames it with real people from both sides of the divide, while remaining both informative and interesting enough to hold the interest of a large audience.

If you want to take the quiz, see the guides and read up, go here.


Local Mother, Activist, and Friend Jeanne Kerwin Dead at 55

You might find yourself wondering who Jeanne Kerwin was. To me she was primarily the mother of a dear friend, and perhaps that is all she would have remained had I not attended her memorial service this Sunday. 

Jeanne was a force of nature. Many people who took the podium attested to the fact that if you told Jeanne she couldn't get something done, you were bound to be proven wrong. Some people told stories of her days as a producer, successfully revamping entire plays a mere 24 hours before curtain. Her husband Brian told us how hard she fought against her aggressive glioblastoma tumor. When doctors told her she had less than a year to live, she managed to live three and stayed out of hospice until the very end. However, the stories that stuck with me were of her work at P.S. 87 and the Computer school in the Upper West Side, the schools her children attended and where she went from Parents Association volunteer to full time staffer. When an obstructionist administration took over the school, Jeanne rallied teachers and parents alike to oust them. When Mayor Bloomberg called for a series of steep budget cuts, Jeanne organized parents to form a human chain in front of the Mayor's car in protest, ending in their arrest and the eventual abandonment of the proposed cuts. 

What struck me about these stories were that they reflected the qualities that drove her. Jeanne cared deeply about the well being of others, particularly children, and fought tooth and nail to ensure that the people in her community were taken care of. Her empathy and selflessness had strong roots in her home, which she and her family shared openly with all who needed a place to sleep, eat, and be loved. Jeanne and her family housed a teacher from P.S. 87 for over a year after she found out he was going to be homeless. She created a safe haven for her children's friends and was described as a second mother by many of them. She was quite literally a local mother and friend, providing love and nourishment to an entire community. 

Jeanne Kerwin was not famous. She did none of what she did for recognition, and that in part is why I feel it so important to write about her. She lived a full, beautiful life that was cut tragically short, and the best way to remember her is to celebrate who she was, and the wonderful community and humans she helped create. She is survived by her husband Brian, her sons Finn and Brennan, and her daughter Mattie. 


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