Nuruddin Farah is a Somali novelist whose ten previous novels have been translated into seventeen languages. He is a winner of the Neustadt International Prize for literature and the Lettre Ulysees Award in Berlin and has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature several times. His trilogies of novels include Variations on the Theme of an African Dictatorship (1980–1983) and Blood in the Sun (1986–1999). Born in Baidoa, Somalia, he divides his time between Cape Town, South Africa, and Minneapolis, where he holds the Winton Chair in the Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota. His latest novel, Crossbones, has just been published by Riverhead/Penguin Group.
Dinaw Mengestu was born in Addis Ababa in 1978. A graduate of Georgetown University and Columbia University's MFA program in fiction, he is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, the Vilcek Prize, and was named a "20 under 40" writer to watch by the New Yorker. His first novel, The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears was published to worldwide acclaim and received a "5 under 35" award from the National Book Foundation, the Guardian First Book award, and the Los Angeles Times first novel award, and was named a New York Times Notable Book, among numerous other honors. Mengestu's second novel, How to Read the Air, was published in 2010, and was also named a New York Times Notable Book, as well as a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. His writing has appeared in the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Granta, New York Times, and other publications. Mengestu was the recipient of the "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation in 2012.
Shashi Tharoor is an elected Member of Parliament and a former Minister of State for External Affairs in the Government of India. A prize-winning author of twelve books, both fiction and non-fiction, he is also a widely published critic, commentator and columnist. In 2007 he concluded a nearly 29-year career with the United Nations, including working for refugees in South-East Asia at the peak of the “boat people” crisis, handling peace-keeping operations in the former Yugoslavia, and culminating as the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. In 2006 he was India’s candidate to succeed Kofi Annan as UN Secretary-General, and emerged a strong second out of seven contenders. Dr. Tharoor earned his Ph.D. at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at the age of 22, and was named by the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1998 as a "Global Leader of Tomorrow." Among his many awards is the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, India’s highest honor for overseas Indians.
Ali Jimale Ahmed (PhD, UCLA) is Professor and Chair of Comparative Literature at Queens College, where he also teaches for the Africana Studies Program and the Department of Classical, Middle Eastern, and Asian Languages and Cultures; he is also on the Comparative Literature faculty at the CUNY Graduate center. Author of several books, including The Invention of Somalia (1995) and Daybreak Is near: Literature, Clans, and the Nation-State in Somalia (1996), Ahmed's poetry and short stories have been translated into several languages. His most recent publications include Fear Is a Cow (2002), Diaspora Blues (2005), and The Road Less Traveled: Reflections on the Literatures of the Horn of Africa (2008, co-edited with the late Taddesse Adera). A former Editor-in-Chief of the UCLA journal Ufahamu, Ahmed has, in a past life, been a journalist (both print and radio) in Somalia, where he had a weekly radio program, Qoraalka iyo Qoraaga (Writing and Writers), and was for several years, a contributing editor for Heegan (Vigilance), the only English weekly in Somalia at the time. He also dabbled in that other witchcraft called “politics.” In the early 1980s, he chaired a panel of writers that was asked to write the biography of the late Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre. The finished manuscript was, for various reasons, never published. Ahmed has for several years now been at work on a book tentatively titled “Reflections on a Hagiography.” His latest book, When Donkeys Give Birth to Calves: Totems, Wars, Horizons, Diasporas is slated to appear in March 2012.
Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and lived in Nigeria and Kenya before settling in the United States. Her debut novel, the critically acclaimed Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, has been translated into several languages and appeared on several “Best of 2010” lists, including Publishers Weekly, Christian Science Monitor and Barnes and Noble. She is a Fulbright Scholar as well as the Runner-up for the 2011 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and a finalist for a Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, an NAACP Image Award, and an Indies Choice Book of the Year Award in Adult Debut. Among other places, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Granta, Callaloo Journal, The Granta Anthology of the African Short Story, Lettre Internationale, and can soon be heard on BBC Radio 4. She has received fellowships from the Emily Harvey Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Prague Summer Program, and Yaddo. She currently lives in New York City.
Anne Nivat is an award-winning war reporter and author. She covered the Chechen war for the French daily Libération and was based in Moscow for ten years until 2005. Nivat has written pieces for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the International Herald Tribune and has appeared on NPR's Fresh Air, The Connection, and PBS's News Hour, as well as other radio and TV programs. She holds a doctorate in political science from Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, and was a Fulbright Fellow at the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard University. For her first book, Chienne de Guerre: A Woman Reporter Behind the Lines of the War in Chechnya, she disguised herself as a Chechen woman and traveled to the war-torn region despite a Russian ban on journalists. Her books include The View from the Vysotka, and The Wake of War; Encounters with the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and the upcoming In the Fog of War. Nivat is based in Paris and travels extensively covering Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Emmanuel Dongala. After his schooling in Brazzaville, Congo, Dongala went to the United States where he studied Chemistry at Oberlin College and at Rutgers University, then went to France where he was awarded a PhD in Organic Chemistry. Back in the Congo he worked at the University of Brazzaville as a teacher and Dean of Academic Affairs until 1998, when he was forced to leave after a bitter civil war. He now teaches chemistry at Bard College at Simon’s Rock where he holds the Richard B. Fisher Chair in Natural Sciences and leads a seminar in African Francophone literature. Dongala, who writes in French, has published five novels, a collection of short stories and a play. His novel, Johnny Mad Dog, published in the USA in 2002, was selected by the Los Angeles Times Book Review as one of the best books of the year. He was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1999 and the Fonlon-Nichols prize by the African Literary Association for “excellence in creative writing and for human rights and freedom of expression” in 2003.
Irene Staunton, a Zimbabwean, is a publisher, researcher and occasional writer. She worked as editor for the Curriculum Development Unit in the Ministry of Education, before she began Baobab Books with Hugh Lewin in 1987, a house that became known for its fiction list, which soon acquired a number of prize-winning authors and titles. In 1998, she and Murray McCartney established Weaver Press, which has a similar focus on good writing from Zimbabwe. Staunton herself compiled the first Zimbabwean oral history with narratives of women in the liberation struggle, Mothers of the Revolution: The War Experiences of Thirty Zimbabwean Women (1988). She worked closely with Save the Children (Zimbabwe) on a number of research and writing projects which resulted in Children in our Midst: the voices of farmworkers' children, We have Something to Say, the voices of disadvantaged children, and Children Crossing Borders: child migration in southern Africa. She has also collaborated with Zimbabwe Women Writers on a collection of interviews with women ex-combatants, Women of Resilience; and co-edited with Chiedza Musengezi, A Tragedy of Lives: Women in Prison in Zimbabwe. Her short story, ‘Pauline’s Ghost’, received honorary mention in New Writing from Africa, 2009, selected by J.M. Coetzee. She has been the editor of the Zimbabwe page of Poetry International since 2003.
Maziar Bahari is an Iranian-Canadian journalist and filmmaker. He was a reporter for Newsweek from 1998 to 2011. Bahari graduated with a degree in communications from Concordia University in Montreal in 1993. Soon after, he made his first film The Voyage of the Saint Louis (1994). He has produced a number of documentaries and news reports for broadcasters around the world including, BBC, Channel4, HBO, Discovery, Canal+ and NHK. Bahari's films include Paint! No Matter What (1999), Football, Iranian Style (2001), And Along Came a Spider (2002), Mohammad and the Matchmaker (1994), Targets: Reporters in Iraq (2005), Greetings from Sadr City (2007), Online Ayatollah (2008), The Fall of a Shah (2009) and An Iranian Odyssey (2010). Bahari has been a jury member of number of international film festivals. A retrospective of Bahari's films was organized by the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in November 2007. During the 2009 Iranian Election Protests he was arrested without charge, and detained for 118 days. Bahari's family memoir, Then They Came for Me, was published by Random House in June 2011.