I am honored to report that my nomination of exiled Chinese writer Tumenulzei Bayunmend to the Human Rights Watch Hellman/Hammett Grant was successful! Tumenulzei’s story was what I went to Istanbul in 2010 to tell, at the second-ever Writers and Literary Translators International Congress. He was granted passage to the USA within a year.
I’ve written extensively about the impact this man, who bought me pizza in that -45 iceworld and comforted me with warm lambchops and beer when I had a relationship break-up, has had on me. He was my friend and a comfort during the cold winter. I’m a Freedom of Expression advocate and he’s an exiled writer. More, though, I’m his American daughter and he’s my Mongolian dad.
Tumenulzei is how I fell backward into the refugee advocacy work I continued in Istanbul at that conference (and in Kenya this summer with Congolese refugee girls in the slum of Kangemi). During my year as a Henry Luce Scholar in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, I worked as the International Relations Advisor to the Mongolian Writers Union with the not-so-subtle aim of helping Mongolian Writers to work toward the formation of a Mongolia chapter of International PEN. PEN America’s Freedom to Write Program contacted me with the name and contact of this exiled writer who was in need of assistance. This guy and me, we could barely speak any of the same words. Turns out, we didn’t need to.
The Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center has a press release about Tumenuzei’s grant and his bio.