Open Suitcases, begun in the Fall of 2023, is a series of essays written by emerging international writers.
Our theme for 2023-24 is Belonging and Exile. No matter where we live, part of the human condition is to experience belonging and exile. This experience is heightened when we cannot return to our homes because we are banned from our country, like our many featured writers this fall. Wendy Guerra lives in Spain, but is from Cuba. Anna Starobinets is self exiled from Russia in Georgia. Bachtyar Ali and Kareem Abdulrahman are Iraqi Kurds exiled from their land.
Yet, so many of us feel alienated even when we are home, craving safety and acceptance, yearning to be celebrated by our family and our society. Americans who leave America to see it from afar, like James Baldwin, and who return, to guide us like prophets. Americans who leave their home towns for other places to feel safer, to pursue opportunity, like the Great Migration north from the south, captured by the artist Jacob Lawrence in his panels.
Our theme for the year launched with 19-year old Alex Pham's exploration of home in his personal essay, "Art of Living." He will return with new work and is now joined by Klara Kalu, a young writer from Nigeria who has moved to Virginia to complete an MFA in fiction.
Alex Pham and Klara Kalu's essays will be just some of the suitcases we are opening up in our Cheuse Center web site. Travel with us and together, we will continue to build spaces of belonging.