Youth Voices

In the summer of 2016, 20 teenagers came together in Iowa City, Iowa for a two-week creative writing and cultural exchange program. The purpose of the program was to discuss literature and creative writing across cultures, ranging from Kyrgyzstan and Sri Lanka to the United States, while also emphasizing the importance of peace-building through the arts. This page serves as an archive of the work done at Between the Lines: Silk Routes as well as a resource, including curriculum, international student language essays, and issues important to youth today as explored through their creative writing.

Due to the multitude of languages spoken by BTL Silk Routes students, the program was conducted entirely in English—a first in the history of Between the Lines—while also emphasizing the importance of that linguistic plurality through translation workshops and cultural, literary, and historical contextualization.  Between our 12 international students, 10 languages were spoken—ranging from Tamil, Sinhala, and Hindi to Urdu, Bangla, Nepali, and Kyrgyz—with even more languages being ‘understood.’

Each weekday, BTLers took two classes: a global literature seminar that encourages writers to expand their lens as readers and a creative writing workshop to hone their craft as writers.  In the evenings and on weekends, special events were held as a way to further cultural exchange and/or expose students to new modes of thinking, writing, or performing. Participants joined in on a slam poetry workshop, held a shared cooking & culinary exchange, discussed notions of home through a Cultures & Context event, and produced “poetic shorts” though digital filmmaking.

Between the Lines Participants

Each of the 12 international students has a contributor page on the Silk Routes Virtual Gallery. Below is a list of all BTL Silk Routes participants, including chaperones and teachers. 

Teachers and Chaperones

Ameena Hussein (BTL instructor), Colombo, Sri Lanka; Mary Hickman (BTL instructor), Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.; Kandala Singh (BTL chaperone), New Delhi, India; Jamby Dzhusbalieva (BTL chaperone), Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan 

Between the Lines International Student Participants (12)

Mohammed Mostafa Irfan (18), Dhaka, Bangladesh; Imthishal Mohamed (16), Colombo, Sri Lanka; Ziqra Zarook (17), Colombo, Sri Lanka; Ahmad Ibrahim (16), Lahore, Pakistan; Zainab Nasim (18), Sialkot, Pakistan; Amsel Bilal Saleem (17), Karachi, Pakistan; Jigyasa Subedi (17), Kathmandu, Nepal; Chiran Raj Pandey (18), Kathmandu, Nepal; Ngawang Choden Lachungpa Bhutia (16), Gangtok, India; Satyendra Nair (18), Mumbai, India; Sabina Umurzakova (19), Karakol, Kyrgyzstan; Azamat Omuraliev (18), Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. 

American Participants (8)

Claire Adler (17), Salt Lake City, Utah; Olivia Alger (17), Lake Bluff, Illinois; Sam Anthony (17), Iowa City, Iowa; Melanie Herrmann (18), Mesa, Arizona; Allison Huang (17), Princeton, New Jersey; Anna Lance (18), Eagle River, Alaska; Maya Meadows-Claussen (17), Iowa City, Iowa; Grace Morse (16), New Orleans, Louisiana. 

 Want to know more? 

You can read the Between the Lines Anthology, a book that was printed at the end of the session. You can also look at the BTL Fact Sheet, which includes a brief introduction of each participant. Lastly, you can check out Between the Lines on social media (Facebook at BTL Writers) and read more about the students' experiences as documented on the Between the Lines Tumblr page.  You should also read Ameena Hussein's (Colombo, Sri Lanka) reflection on teaching BTL students in Iowa City. 

Curious what we read during the program? Below is the Curriculum Table of Contents: 

I. What is Global Literature?

The Empire Writes Back! – Wena Poon                                                                                  

Why Do Writers Abandon Their Native Language? – unknown                                              

The African Writer and the English Language – Chinua Achebe                                 

When My Authentic is Your Exotic – Soniah Kamal                                                   

Can Books Cross Borders – Tim Parks                                                                          

II. Texts and Context

South of the Border, West of the Sun – Haruki Murakami                                           

Island of a Thousand Mirrors – Nayomi Munaweera                                                   

The War at Our Backs – Nayomi Munaweera                                                              

Food for my Daughter – Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe                                                    

Pigs Can’t Fly – Shyam Selvadurai                                                                               

The Kafir of my heart – Liyanage Amarakeerthi                                                                       

Jamila (Intro, Excerpt 1) – Chingiz Aitmatov                                                                

Jamila (Excerpt 2) – Chingiz Aitmatov                                                                          

Jamila (Summary) – Iraj Bashiri                                                                                               

Manas (Intro and Excerpt) – anonymous                                                                      

Manas (Comments) -- Hu Zhen-hua and Guy Imart                                                      

Cordoba – Stuart Dybek                                                                                              

Drive – Stuart Dybek                                                                                                   

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood                                                                   

Having a Coke With You – Frank O’Hara                                                                               

The Last Time I Saw Cherry – Tony Birch                                                                                

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream – Harlan Ellison                                                           

Where the Kissing Never Stops – Joan Didion                                                             

The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller                                                                                  

The Sweet Relief of Missing Children – Sarah Braunstein                                                         

Dhon Hiyala and Ali Fulhu – Abdulla Sodiq                                                               

Don Hiyala and Alifulu – Xavier Romero-Frias                                                                        

Muna-Madan – Laxmiprasad Devkota                                                                          

Devkota’s Muna-Madan: An Introduction – Michael Hutt                                            

Happy Family in Mongolia – Manjushree Thapa                                                                     

Sultana’s Dream – Rokeya Shekhawat Hossein                                                             

Runaway Cyclone – Jagadish Chandra Bose                                                                 

[“Come as you are”] (and Tagore Intro) – Rabindranath Tagore                                               

Maran-milan (‘Death-wedding’) – Rabindranath Tagore                                                           

Tagore commentary – Bhabatosh Chatterjee                                                                

To My Beloved Teenager – Lalita Gandbir                                                                  

Virgin Curry – Githa Hariharan                                                                                               

Lajja (Shame) – Taslima Nasrin                                                                                                

Train to Pakistan – Khushwant Singh                                                                           

Toba Tek Singh – Saadat Hasan Manto                                                                                   

Hindi and Urdu – Saadat Hasan Manto                                                                                   

Complaint – Allama Muhammad Iqbal                                                                                    

baazicha-e-atafaal hai duniya mere aage – Mirza Ghalib                                                            

Butt and Bhatti – Mohammed Hanif                                                                            

III. Student Language Essays                                                                                   

IV. National, Literary, and Historical Background

Post-Socialist Kyrgyz Literature: Crisis or Renaissance                                                  

From Minority to Nation – Ayesha Jalal                                                                                   

One Language, Separated by the Sea: Introduction to the Bloodaxe Book of

Contemporary Indian Poets – Jeet Thayil                                                         

The Vintage Book of Modern Indian Literature, Introduction – Amit Chaudhuri