The American Writers Festival (AWF) is here for its fifth edition from 14 to 18 September 2015 at Yale-NUS College and the Singapore Management University. You will be treated to readings and panel discussion featuring authors like Adam Johnson, Tina Chang, Rajiv Joseph, Michael Meyer and Nisid Hajari. The festival will focus on American writers and their relationship to Asia right here in Singapore, the literary capital of the region. Here are some facts about some of the authors featured that will (hopefully) have you do a double take.

1. Tina Chang considers Dowager Empress Tzi Hsi of China as her doppelganger

Credit: History Today

The poet laureate of Brooklyn felt helpless after 9/11 and she felt inspired by the Dowager Empress to regain the strength to write again. The Dowager Empress was a peasant woman who ruthlessly worked her way up – her rags to riches story is better than any drama (check it out here). In an interview with David St.-Lascaux, she says the Empress “wasn’t only a doppelganger: she was a ghost to me, an alter ego; she was all of these things to me”.

2. Playboy Magazine commended Adam Jonson on his teaching

Adam Johnson was named by Playboy Magazine (yes, that men’s magazine) to be “one of the nation’s most influential and imaginative college professors”. (Makes you wonder about his teaching methods. Where can I sign up for a class to find out?) As if that wasn’t enough, he has also won the Pulitzer Prize In Fiction in 2013 for his recent novel, The Orphan Master’s Son, which is set in North Korea (always an interesting and dangerous subject). He writes short stories too. Here’s one about drones, assassinations, love and Kurt Cobain aptly titled Nirvana.

3. Robin Williams played a tiger in Rajiv Joseph’s play

Credit: Red Letter Media

Rajiv Joseph’s play A Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo not only won him a Pulitzer Prize in Drama but it also featured the late Robin Williams as the tiger in the Broadway version. Huffington Post described the play as “a tiger that haunts the streets of present day Baghdad Zoo seeking the meaning of life”.  It is not as weird as it sounds.  The play questions how much control and responsibilities do we have over our actions and their consequences – can we blame the tiger for killing and eating? His older plays such as Huck and Holden are inspired by his Indian father’s experiences in an American college.

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This is just the tip of the weird and wonderful knowledge iceberg, for more discussion and live reading sessions register here for free. For more information on the American Writers Festival click here.

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