*Sri Lankan Women in Their Own Words

Six Contemporary Writers in Conversation
Event detail
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In conjunction with Women's History Month, Kearny Street Workshop proudly presents Sri Lankan Women in Their Own Words: Six Contemporary Writers in Conversation at the San Francisco Public Library. Women writers from the global Sri Lankan diaspora representing Sinhalese, Tamil, and Bergher ethnicities will read from their body of work,and engage in a panel discussion about craft, process, inspiration, and the role of history and identity in informing their writing.

The six writers are Dharini Abeysekera, Nayomi Munaweera (Island of a Thousand Mirrors), Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Love Cake, Consensual Genocide), Seni Seneviratne (Wild Cinnamon and Winter Skin, The Heart of It), Pireeni Sundaralingam (Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry), and Arany Uthayakumar (Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton).

A brief audience Q&A portion and book signing will follow. Light refreshments will be served. This event is free and open to the public.

Kearny Street Workshop is the oldest Asian Pacific American multidisciplinary arts organization in the country. Offering classes and workshops, salons and student presentations, as well as professionally curated and produced exhibitions, performances, readings and screenings, KSW makes artists out of community members and community members out of artists. For the past 41 years, KSW has nurtured creative spirit, offered an important platform for new voices to be heard, and connected artists with community. For more information, visit http://kearnystreet.org.

Presenters' Bios:

Dharini Abeysekera was born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She studied English Literature at the University of Kelaniya and obtained her MA in Linguistics at the American University in Washington DC. She worked at the English Language Teaching Center at the University of Katubedda, Sri Lanka until political circumstances caused her to leave the country.
She gained refugee status in Toronto, Canada where she lived for ten years working in Adult Literacy, writing and publishing her poetry, and raising a family with her husband, Ranil. She now lives in Berkeley and is back in school working on her writing career.


Nayomi Munaweera is a Sri Lankan-American author and artist. Her first book, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, a novel about the Sri Lankan civil war, was published in 2012 by Perrera Hussein. The novel has received rave reviews from sources as diverse as Mother Jones and Hyphen Magazine. It was long-listed for the Man Asia Literary Prize making it one of the fifteen best books coming out of Asia in 2012. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Nayomi is an alumni of Squaw Valley Community of Writers, as well as the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation and the Kearny Street Workshop's Interdisciplinary Writers Lab. She is represented by Peter Steinberg of The Steinberg Agency.


2012 Lambda Literary Award winner Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, is a disabled queer femme mixed Sri Lankan writer, poet, educator and cultural worker. She is the author of Love Cake, Consensual Genocide and the co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence in Activist Communities. She co founded Toronto's Asian Arts Freedom School and Mangos With Chili and has performed and taught writing, disability arts and transformative justice workshops all over North America. Her work has been widely anthologized. She lives between Toronto, Oakland and the decolonial imagination.


Seni Seneviratne, born and raised in Leeds, is of English and Sri Lankan heritage. She has given readings, performances and workshops in UK, US, Canada, South Africa and Egypt. Her debut collection, Wild Cinnamon and Winter Skin, (March 2007, Peepal Tree Press) includes a poem which was Highly Commended in the Forward Poetry Prize.

Her second collection, The Heart of It, (April 2012, Peepal Tree Press.) is described by Mimi Khalvati as “a tender, moving collection full of passionate intensity and an unswerving faith in the power of reconciliation and love” and includes her poem ‘Operation Cast Lead’ which was shortlisted in the 2010 Arvon International Poetry Competition.


Born in Sri Lanka and raised both there in and in the UK, Pireeni Sundaralingam is a former PEN USA Fellow. Her poetry has been published in journals such as Ploughshares (USA), Cyphers (Ireland), and Karavan (Sweden), anthologies by W.W.Norton, Prentice Hall, & Macmillan, and translated into 5 languages. She has given readings on 3 continents, from the Irish Embassy in Hanoi to the Smithsonian in DC, and is co-editor of Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry, which won both the PEN Oakland and the N.California Book Award in 2011.


Arany Uthayakumar is a Canadian-born Sri Lankan Tamil girl, who has absolutely loved growing up in America. When she isn’t meeting with her unit discussing Aristotle’s view on politics for her high school’s constitutional debate team, you’ll find her planning the next community arts revival. As co-president of the Writers Bloc and one of Pleasanton's two Teen Poet Laureates, she presides over these revivals, titled Project Phoenix. She is especially fascinated by Tamil culture, and currently assists at the local Tamil school. She has written about a novella about the ethnic crisis back in her homeland. She hopes to use her passion for writing and public speaking as a way to help people in Sri Lanka, through a career in International Relations, Medical Research or Medical Practice, or an intersection of both careers.

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