Beekeeper

The jacket for “Beekeeper of Aleppo” by Christy Lefteri.

 

After virtually accepting Aspen Words 2020 Literary Prize during an online celebration in April, author Christy Lefteri will lead a community read via Zoom at noon today.

“The Beekeeper of Aleppo” author also will discuss her provocative, bestselling book with Aspen Words Executive Director Adrienne Brodeur and Qutaiba Idlbi, a Syrian refugee and fellow at the International Center for Transitional Justice.

“To me, ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo’ is just a testament to the triumph of human spirit,” Brodeur said Wednesday.

Noting that Aspen Words Literary Prize aims to honor a work of fiction that demonstrates enduring literary excellence and highlights a vital social issue, Brodeur said, “What Christy did so well is she put a human face on the Syrian War through this story and [its characters].”

Lefteri was raised in London and is the child of Cypriot refugees. “The Beekeeper of Aleppo,” which follows the story of Syrian refugees in Great Britain, was born out of her time working as a volunteer at a UNICEF-supported refugee center in Athens.

Idlbi is a Syrian activist and co-founder of People Demand Change, an organization that develops, funds and implements solutions to humanitarian, social and political challenges in the Middle East.

Brodeur said Idlbi’s insight to the conversation today, which is free to watch and can be accessed via aspenwords.org, will be invaluable.

“He’s actually lived good chunks of this story. … It’s such an interesting way to examine this piece of literature, which is so important, and have someone who’s lived the experience,” Brodeur said.

Aspen Words Literary Prize is one of the largest literary prizes of its kind in the U.S. and among the few that focuses exclusively on fiction with a social impact. Since its establishment in 2017, the award was presented in collaboration with media partner NPR Books via a live ceremony at The Morgan Library in New York.

This year’s in-person event was canceled due to COVID-19.

Of the pandemic, Brodeur said Wednesday, “If there is an upside to any of what we’ve gone through, I hope it makes us more compassionate” to others around the world.

As part of her virtual acceptance speech in April, Lefteri said literature “shows we have the power to change things we might not think we do, but we do.”

She continued: “Change starts to happen with a shift in perception and perspective. In this way, literature can be a powerful catalyst. … I hope my book shines a light on refugees everywhere in the world.”

Erica Robbie is the editor-in-chief of Local Magazine and Local Weekly as well as the arts & culture editor for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at erica@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @ericarobbie.