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Photo courtesy Boulder Public Library

International authors lead deep conversations for second year in Boulder

By Tanya Ishikawa

Attentive crowds turned out for Boulder’s inaugural Jaipur Literature Festival in 2015. (photo courtesy Boulder Public Library)
Attentive crowds turned out for Boulder’s inaugural Jaipur Literature Festival in 2015. (photo courtesy Boulder Public Library)

This September brings back a reason to turn off the TV, detour away from the movie theaters, power down all electronic devices and expand your mind at a truly Boulder event.

The second annual Jaipur Literature Festival at Boulder, set for Sept. 24-25, may become to autumn what the Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado is to spring.

The festival offers seven panel discussions and interviews running concurrently at three venues around the Boulder Public Library. This two-day idea extravaganza was designed for “anyone who enjoys deep thought, creative thinking, and firsthand exposure to some of the deep research and commentary on contemporary issues, as well as those fascinated by fiction, poetry and the writing process,” says Jessie Friedman, the Boulder festival’s founder and executive director.

A Sampling of the 2016 Festival’s
Special Guest Authors & Speakers

her-majestyHer Majesty the Royal Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck of Bhutan The first wife of Bhutan’s Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck is one of four sisters married to him. The Queen Mother is not only an accomplished author but also a keen supporter of literary works, especially for young readers. Her interest in environment preservation has led her to support national parks, biological corridors and other environmental programs. The small nation of Bhutan, which has about 750,000 people, lies deep within the Himalayas between China and India, two of the most populous and polluted countries in the world. But Bhutan is not only carbon neutral—it’s carbon negative, with ample forests acting as a carbon sink. Some 72 percent of the country is forested, absorbing more carbon dioxide than its population produces. Bhutan’s strong environmental laws require that 60 percent of the country remain forested forever.

viet-thanh-nguyenViet Thanh Nguyen An associate professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, Nguyen is the author of the novel The Sympathizer (2015), which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The novel begins in April 1975, as Saigon is about to fall to communist invasion. Soon enough it does, and the war is over. Or is it? At once a black comedy, historical novel and literary thriller, The Sympathizer follows a nameless spy who has infiltrated the South Vietnamese army and flees with its remnants to America.

dave-goulsonDave Goulson “Professor of Bumblebees” at the University of Sussex, England, Goulson is the author of the bestselling A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees and A Buzz in the Meadow: The Natural History of a French Farm, as well as numerous scientific articles and books on bees and other insects. He is the founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Local writers include Puerto Rico-born Boulderite Irene Vilar, autobiographer and founder of the Americas Latino Eco Festival in Boulder; Helen Thorpe of Denver, author of Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America and Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War, a former staff writer for the New York Observer, The New Yorker and Texas Monthly, and former first lady of Denver and Colorado; Boulder resident Laird Hunt, editor of the Denver Quarterly, whose book Neverhome received France’s inaugural Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine; and Boulder poet Anne Waldman.

For information about the Jaipur Literary Festival at Boulder, go to https://jaipurliteraturefestival.org/boulder.

“There is something for everyone, indeed, with authors from very diverse backgrounds addressing issues of politics, race, class, environment, economy, history, LGBT, women’s issues, gun control, terrorism, war, immigration, climate change and the outdoors.”

The programming at a fourth venue targets young students from elementary to high-school age, who can participate in
workshops with the same group of internationally acclaimed writers, artists, performers and leaders.

 ‘The way we structure the festival, it’s not about the books that have been written but about the ideas the authors have written about in books.’
— JLF Founder Sanjoy Roy

“We believe in seeding ideas for young people by hosting these workshops, making them aware of the possibilities of what the arts could do … how the arts can empower young people, keep them out of trouble in some sense of the word, and make them successful,” explains Sanjoy Roy, the New Delhi-based founder of the Jaipur Literature Festivals. He is also a founder trustee of Salaam Baalak Trust, which provides support services for street and working children in the inner city of Delhi.

Traveling the World … from  the Boulder Public Library

The Boulder event is the U.S. version of the annual Jaipur Literature Festival, founded in India in January 2011. A British version of the festival has been organized in London each May since 2013. As at the other two festivals, all the Boulder sessions are free to attend, including Saturday-morning music and a Saturday-night concert with Rajasthan Josh, a Rajasthani folk band from Jaipur, India. Some pre-festival events on Friday will require paid tickets.

Sanjoy Roy, managing director of Teamwork Arts, which produces the Jaipur Literature Festival, with JLF Boulder executive director Jessie Friedman. (photo by Carol Brock)
Sanjoy Roy, managing director of Teamwork Arts, which produces the Jaipur Literature Festival, with JLF Boulder executive director Jessie Friedman. (photo by Carol Brock)

“The way we structure the festival, it’s not about the books that have been written but about the ideas the authors have written about in books,” Roy explains. “The discussion is about building walls or not building them, having elections or no elections, cultural traditions, scientific discoveries … the whole gamut! You can sit in the Boulder library and travel the world without moving an inch.”

Roy began organizing various music, dance and art festivals in the mid-1990s after a profitable, award-winning but draining career in television production. In addition to helping direct and produce 26 annual festivals in 41 locations around the globe, he continues to direct and produce for television, film and theater. The arts have always been his passion, not only for their beauty but also for their ability to address political issues by providing a different lens through which to see society’s problems.

“We don’t set out to be political, but we very much inhabit a political space. Authors write not just to entertain but because we have issues locally, nationally and internationally,” Roy says. “It’s so easy across the world to ban a book, throw an artist into jail, burn paintings. Governments will always find a way to suppress artists, because they present soft targets. And governments are threatened by the written word that artists can bring about, not just in India but in America and different parts of the world. Artists can make sense of the various issues and show that all ideas can coexist.”


Tanya Ishikawa is a freelance writer who regularly writes about the arts, human rights, education and politics for Brock Media publications.