Wednesday, December 14, 2005



I didn’t know whether or not to tell you-all, but I found a picture of myself in a Bangladeshi magazine.  Earlier this year through PEN USA, I learned about a journalist with the difficult name, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, who’d been thrown in a Dhaka jail cell, after being picked up at the airport in on his way to speak to an international writers’ conference in Israel.  

I contacted PEN and offered to be his minder.  That meant I would, personally, concentrate on his case.  I organized many letter-writing campaigns at the same time a writer in the Chicago area, who was also working for his freedom, contacted a Congressman who discussed the case with the Bangladeshi Ambassador.  We got him out of jail, but he was still under indictment for sedition, a capital offence.  

PEN USA named Mr. Choudhury as our 2005 Freedom to Write Award Winner, which we hoped would send a message to the Bangladeshi government that we care about him and were watching them.  So far the charges have not been dropped, but the good news is Mr. Choudhury is home with his family and has been allowed to publish again.  Since he was under indictment and couldn’t travel outside his country, I accepted the award for him.  

He published my picture in his English-language magazine, The Weekly Blitz.  The headline read:
Celebrated novelist Lorraine Despres Eastlake receiving prestigious Freedom to Write Award on behalf of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury on 9th November 2005 in Los Angeles. PEN USA accorded this award to Choudhury.
Bangladesh is a democracy of 140 million people and we never hear about them, except occasionally during a flood and recently because of terrorist bombings there.  A traditionally moderate Moslem nation, they are at the crossroads in response to this new wave of fundamentalists.  When I wrote The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell, I wasn’t just writing a romp or a steamy love story, but drawing parallels to the intolerance sweeping the world today, with the year 1920, the year a terrorist bombed Wall Street, Hitler began raving in beer halls, Henry Ford published his anti-Semitic rants in the Dearborn Independent, and the Ku Klux Klan swept the United States.  

In case you’re interested in what’s going on in Bangladesh, here’s a link:  or for a full look at the paper:

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