5Q Interview: Thawda Aye Lei (Myanmar), IWP Resident

October 21, 2019

The Writing University conducts is a series of interviews with writers while they are in Iowa City participating in the International Writing Program's fall residency. We sit down with authors to ask about their work, their process and their descriptions of home.

Today we are speaking with THAWDA AYE LEI (fiction, nonfiction; Myanmar), a graduate of the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, is a journalist-turned-advocate. She is also the author of three novels and a story collection [The Borderless Cloud], and the founder of the online magazine Myat shu. Thawda Aye Lei's participation was made possible by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.


1. Do you have a plan or project in mind for your time at the residency?

My specific objective of coming to Iowa is to learn about the literature industry in the US;  in particular, how the US has cultivated the talented writers, how they have collected the resources, how they are engaging with diverse culture from different parts of the world in arts, and how the market for literature is here. So, I have observed what I want to know at lectures at the University of Iowa, Reading series, libraries,  bookstores, panel discussions, and other cultural and social events.
 

2. What does your daily practice look like for your writing? Do you have a certain time when you write? Any specific routine?

Rather writing, I have devoted most of my time into reading. Because there are many resources at the Iowa City Public Library that I never had access to before.
 

3. What are you currently reading right now? Are you reading for research or pleasure?

I am reading a novel “A passage to India” by E.M.Forster. Though I watched the movie long time ago, this is the first time I’ve ever read the original novel. It is really fascinating.
 

4. What is one thing the readers and writers of Iowa City should know about you and your work?

I am a researcher on social work as well as a novelist. Two of my professionals are really connected, as sometimes, some of my research findings are also feeding my novels.
 

5. Tell us a bit about where you are from - share some favorite details about your home.

I came from Myanmar which is also called Burma in the Southeast Asia. When someone heard about the name of my country, they would see first as Myanmar is a least developed country and a place with prolonged ethnic conflicts and poverty. But there are some beauties behind the ugly face. It is the country which is being behind advanced technology and development, but still embracing humanistic values and collectivism. As long as the Burmese (Myamar) have been real human beings, not robots and materialists, I appreciate that.

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Thank you Aye Lei!