University of Pittsburgh
February 27, 2008

Pitt's Contemporary Writers Series Hosts "Writing and Social Responsibility" Panel Discussion March 5

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh will host writers Elmaz Abinader, Tim Bascom, Andrew Lam, and Patricia Jabbeh Wesley in a panel discussion titled "Writing and Social Responsibility," at 6 p.m. March 5, in room 501 of the Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Ave., Oakland. This event is part of the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series' 2007-08 season.

Elmaz Abinader is an award winning poet and educator of Lebanese descent. Born in 1954 in a small Pennsylvania town, she grew up with strong ties to her ethnic background. She, her parents, and five siblings ate Arabic food, spoke in Arabic, and were brought up with Lebanese sensibilities. It was this upbringing that paved the way for an adulthood of political activism.

Abinader has written multiple articles on issues affecting Arabs and Arab-Americans, and has used her writing as a forum to speak out against Western atrocities in the Middle East. Her first published work, "Children of the Roojme, A Family's Journey From Lebanon," was published in 1991 by the University of Wisconsin Press. Later works include "In the Country of My Dreams: Poetry by ELmaz Abinader" (Sufi Warrior Publishing Co., 1999), and two plays: "Country of Origin" (1997) and "Under the Ramadan Moon" (2000).

At the age of 3, Tim Bascom's Christian-missionary parents moved him and his two brothers to a small medical outpost in rural Ethiopia. Bascom's recollections of moments and conversations from his childhood became the impetus for his memoir, "Chameleon Days: An American Boyhood in Ethiopia" (Mariner Books, 2006).

"Chameleon Days" won the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference Bakeless Prize in 2006, and an excerpt was selected by Jamaica Kincaid for The Best American Travel Writing 2005. Bascom has also published a novel, "Squatter's Rites" (New Day Press, 1990), and a critical study of Christianity in U.S. culture, "The Comfort Trap: Spiritual Dangers of a Convenience Culture," (Intervarsity Press, 1993). His work has appeared in "The Florida Review," "Fourth Genre," "Boulevard," "Image," "Modern Bride," and the in-flight magazine of China Airlines.

Andrew Lam is an editor with New America Media, a short story writer, and author of "Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora," (Heyday Books, 2005), which won a PEN/ Beyond Margins Award.

Lam was born in 1964 in South Vietnam to General Lam Quang Thi of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. In April 1975, Lam and his family fled their homeland on a C-130 during the Fall of Saigon. After leaving Vietnam, his family settled in Northern California.

Lam's awards include The World Affairs Council's Excellence in International Journalism Award (1992), the Rockefeller Fellowship at UCLA (1992), the Society of Professional Journalists' Outstanding Young Journalist Award (1993), The Asian American Journalists Association National Award (1993, 1995), and The Media Alliance Meritorious award (1994). He was honored and profiled on KQED television in May 1996 during Asian American heritage month.

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley describes her award winning poetry as an outcry against the devastation of her war-torn homeland of West Africa. Born in Liberia, Wesley spent her childhood in Monrovia. She immigrated to the United States in 1991 during the Liberian Civil War and settled in Michigan with her family. Due to the upheaval in her life, she now considers herself to have a triple heritage as "an African, a woman, and an immigrant."

Wesley is the author of three collections of poetry, the newly released "The River is Rising," (Autumn House Press, 2007), "Becoming Ebony," (Southern Illinois University Press, 2003), and "Before The Palm Could Bloom: Poems of Africa," (Western Michigan University, 1998). Her honors and awards include the Victor E. Ward Foundation Crystal Award for contributions to Libertarian Literature and The Crab Orchard Open Competition Award, which she won for Becoming Ebony.

The Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series, which runs through April 2, is cosponsored by Pitt's Book Center, Women's Studies Program, and the University of Pittsburgh Press. All events in the Writers Series are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Jeff Oaks at