A talk by Viet Thanh Nguyen set to be held Monday at a Houston synagogue was moved to the downtown Hobby Center, the second time in 10 days the Pulitzer Prize-winning author had a scheduled speaking engagement disrupted after he signed an open letter calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
“We just found out on Saturday that the venue would not be available to us for this event, so we’re grateful that the Hobby Center was able to fit us in,” said Krupa Parikh, associate director of Inprint, the literary arts organization behind the event. She said the arts community of Houston had helped the organization in the process, and a new location was booked by Sunday.
The event originally was scheduled to be held at Congregation Emanu El in southwest Houston.
A spokesperson for the synagogue did not immediately reply to a request for comment Monday afternoon.
The open letter, signed by 750 artists and writers from Europe and North America, was published Oct. 18. The letter demands “an end to the violence and destruction in Palestine” and expressed grief for civilian casualties on both sides. The letter also calls out violence against the Palestinian population.
“Nothing can retrieve what has already been lost,” the letter states. “But the unprecedented and indiscriminate violence that is still escalating against the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, with the financial and political support of Western powers, can and must be brought to an end.”
Parikh said Inprint could not comment on why the event had to be moved, adding the nonprofit had not been a part of the conversation. The event was part of the Margarett Root Brown Reading Series, and Parikh said the organization did not expect any future events scheduled for the synagogue to be moved.
The event’s removal to the Hobby Center followed the Oct. 20 cancellation of an appearance by Nguyen at a New York City Jewish cultural and community center in direct response to the open letter.
The 92nd Street Y, New York released a statement to National Public Radio, saying, “As a Jewish organization we believe the responsible course of action right now is to take some time to determine how best to use our platform and support the entire 92NY community, so we made the difficult decision to postpone the October 20th event.”
That cancellation prompted several other artists and writers to withdraw from scheduled appearances at 92NY. In response, 92NY said it would “pause” its popular literary speakers series.
Nguyen has been outspoken about ending hostilities in Gaza. In a recent interview, he said, “We need a ceasefire, obviously to save lives but also to take a step back from this very dangerous thinking of ‘us vs them.’”