The year 2020 is coming to an end, and our Green Library series with it. Originally, we had planned to organize readings and writing workshops in a Berlin bookshop. Our intention was to hear from authors who write about nature and the environment, while reflecting on colonial contexts and power structures. But as it did for everyone this year, Corona derailed our plans.
In place of the physical events we had planned, we opted to host live digital events and record podcast readings, we reviewed numerous thematically related books on pocolit.com, and we published some creative writing. Here’s a short retrospective:
“Two Trees Make a Forest”: Reading and Discussion with Jessica J. Lee
We spoke with British-Canadian-Taiwanese author Jessica J. Lee – until recently a resident of Berlin – about her memoirs Turning: A Swimming Memoir (2017) and Two Trees Make a Forest (2020). Lee connects her personal story and that of her family to complex environmental issues, such as the warming of lakes around Berlin and the number of earthquakes in Taiwan. In both books, she engages closely with the landscapes that form her settings: in part, in the hopes of developing a sense of home herself, and in part because nature writing reveals much about history – for example, in the colonial practice of naming plants.
“In Search of Better Skies”: Reading and Discussion with Jennifer Neal
Jennifer Neal has lived in many places around the world, and currently calls Berlin home. She finished writing her first novel a few months ago. At our online event, she offered us a glimpse into her as-yet-unpublished work of speculative fiction and the possibilities this genre offers. She also spoke about her short story “In Search of Better Skies” which appeared in the literary journal The Willowherb Review. In her work, Neal uses landscape as a kind of fact-checker, and explores personal connections to place and intergenerational trauma.
Read about it here.
“More insects than in Madrid”: Podcast Reading with Inger-Maria Mahlke
We recorded our first podcast episode with Inger-Maria Mahlke. The German author has relatives in Tenerife, the Canary Island that is the setting for her novel Archipelago, with which she won the German Book Prize in 2018. Although the island is on the periphery of Europe, it was nevertheless central to European power games in the 19th and 20th centuries, a salient stopover for colonial endeavours, and a microcosm for fascist political projects to play out. Significantly, the island tends to be dominated by whoever has control over its natural resources.
Creative Writing Workshop with Musa Okwonga
In order to encourage our readers to experiment with writing themselves, we invited Musa Okwonga to offer a Creative Writing Workshop. Okwonga lives in Berlin and has worked as a writer, radio host and musician. He gave participants from all over the world what he calls a “creativity toolkit” through a number of exercises, and invited us to think about empathy, narration, and imagery.
Creative Writing Submissions
We were delighted to be able to publish some original work around our Green Library theme, in the form of June Chua’s essay on dandelions and migration, as well as Mahesh Sharma’s short story about domestic violence, Tulsi the girl and Tulsi the plant
Thanks to everyone who participated in our events and supported us this year. For 2021, we are already planning an exciting new project on translating sensitive language, so stay tuned!
The Green Library series was kindly funded by the Berlin Senate.