Literary Cleveland, whose mission is to create and nurture a vibrant literary arts community in Northeast Ohio, is hosting a staged reading of original work written by immigrants from Syria, Iran, Colombia, Poland, China, Azerbaijan and elsewhere during the upcoming Cleveland Humanities Festival.

Crossing Borders: Immigrant Narratives, is set for March 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. in the Cleveland State University student center ballroom at 2121 Euclid Ave, SC 319. The events are cosponsored by the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities and Cleveland State University's College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.The staged reading of short essays, fiction and poems is directed by Marc Moritz, who has assembled a cast of professional actors to perform the pieces.

In "Crutches," Jill Sell of Sagamore Hills writes about her Czech ancestors' uncertain passage through Ellis Island, which could easily have been rejected. "Food and Family," a piece by Hathaway Brown student Crystal Zhao, tells the story of a second-generation Chinese immigrant bonding with her mother over stories of childhood rebellion.

The poem "Genesis" by Daniel Gray-Kontar addresses the journey of African-Americans from the south to northern cities like Cleveland during the Great Migration.Some stories deal with recent immigration experiences.

In the raw "Struggling to Survive," Syrian immigrant Bayan Aljbawi writes about leaving her troubled homeland for the U.S., an experience she describes as "escaping from one suffering to another: new culture, new country and different language."

"My husband, my baby and I were lucky," she concludes. "The only question left is this: What about too many others who did not get a chance to do the same?"

And in "American Promise," award-winning novelist and Case professor Thrity Umrigar who immigrated here from India over 30 years ago confronts the current political climate and asks if the U.S. "will be a country that is as small and narrow as its fears" or "as large and glorious as its dreams, as splendid as the hopes of millions of its citizens, immigrant and native born?"

Writers featured on March 18 include Alex Arredondo, Victoria Avi, Baya Aljbawi, Barbara Belovich, Lola Farron, Daniel Gray-Kontar, Susan Grimm, Diane Kendig, Philip Metres, Nazly Pashmini, Maria Perilla, Joelle Reizes, Mary Robles, Jill Sell, Thrity Umrigar and Crystal Zhao.

Writers featured on March 19 include Amy Breau, Lee Chilcote, Lisa Chiu, Laurel Domanski-Diaz, Elizabeth Figueroa, Jason Jaffery, Ann Klotz, Lara Lillibridge, Philip Metres, Charlotte Morgan, Melanie Rademaker, Viplav Saini, E. F. Schraeder, Nancy Sotka and Thrity Umrigar.

Literary Cleveland's mission is to create and nurture a vibrant literary arts community in Northeast Ohio. For more information on upcoming events, check out our website at or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.