Leeya Mehta is the interim Director of the Alan Cheuse International Writers Center. She is a prize-winning poet, fiction writer and essayist. Her poetry collections are The Towers of Silence, and A Story of the World Before the Fence of which Tim Seibles, former Poet Laureate of Virginia, writes, “is a lush, lyrical study of memory and history.” In 2022 her work has been anthologized in the Penguin Book of Modern Indian Poets and in Future Work, an anthology of contemporary Indian writers from Red Hen Press.
Leeya grew up in Bombay, the city on the sea, and the great muse of many a writer. She has a Masters in Philosophy, Politics & Economics from Oxford University on a Radhakrishnan Scholarship that was created in honor of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the second President of independent India. The idealism of India’s birth– in political and individual freedom, in unity in diversity, in non-violent activism, in service – formed the foundation of her own personal philosophy. But it was in writing that Leeya found a place to weave in the paradox of violent beginnings, and the threads of continued brutality that haunt the generosity of time. Her column The Company We Keep, on the reading and writing life, is one of the spaces where she explores these paradoxes, developing thematic connections between writers and cultures from around the world. Imagined Childhoods is a recent essay following the attack on fellow Bombay writer Salman Rushdie on Aug 12, 2022. Other links to her work can be found at https://leeyamehta.com/.
One of Leeya’s first trips to America was as a visiting writer at the University of Michigan. The international community of readers and writers is her tribe, her home. She has traveled through the Arctic borderlands of Europe, been on a fellowship in Human Rights at the United Nations University in Tokyo, and now lives in Washington DC where she earned a Masters in Public Policy from Georgetown University. She has spent most of the last decade as a writer, while pursuing a parallel career at the World Bank. At the World Bank she worked on climate change in Africa, was the primary evaluator for the Bank’s gender work, and is a gender specialist in Central Asia and Latin America.
At the Center, she is inspired by the legacy of Alan Cheuse, who said, “Fiction, like poetry, works at its best when it brings together emotion as well as idea, passion as well as characters in the illusory unfolding we call time. When it works close to the timing of the human pulse, to the flow of our blood, the beat of our heart.”