Iowa City may offer refuge to writers unwelcome in their homelands. The University of Iowa International Writing Program has proposed to the city that it offer asylum to those writers, as have 30 in Europe, since they thought of Iowa City when they were looking at establishing some in North America. International Writing Program director Christopher Merrill says Salmon Rushdie, author of the best-selling fiction novel “Satanic Verses,” is just one author whose works have earned him threats in his native land. Iowa City has a 30-year tradition of providing both hospitality and safe haven to writers both American and foreign. Merrill says academics have brought up the idea with city leaders.He says the idea’s been universally praised. The writers would be offered housing and a stipend provided jointly by the University and the city. He hopes to raise money to support a writer and family for a year or two with a joint fundraising collaboration. The country of Iran put a death sentence on Salman Rushdie’s head, but Merrill bristles at the idea that hosting a foreign writer could be dangerous for Iowans. He says oppressive regimes just don’t want the truth told in their country, and once they’re over here their dictators don’t care. Merrill says Iowa’s one of the literary centers of the world, and is a logical candidate to become part of the Network of Cities of Asylum.
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