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China's Mo Yan Wins Nobel in Literature; Roma Culture in New York; American Music Award Nominees

Chinese writer Mo Yan at news conference in his hometown Gaomi, Shandong province, October 11, 2012.

Chinese writer Mo Yan at news conference in his hometown Gaomi, Shandong province, October 11, 2012.

Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary.

Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

I’m June Simms.

On our show this week, we play some music nominated for American Music Awards.

We also take a look at Roma culture in New York City.

But first, we talk about the winner of a major writing prize.

2012 Nobel Prize for Literature

The Swedish Academy in Stockholm on Thursday named Mo Yan winner of the Twenty-Twelve Nobel Prize in Literature.

The academy praised the Chinese writer for what it called his “hallucinatory realism.” It noted his ability to combine folk stories, history and modern events in his works.

An academy official said Mister Mo said he was “overjoyed and scared” when he learned he had won the award. He will receive his Nobel diploma, a medal and more than one million dollars at a ceremony in Stockholm in December.

Mo Yan is a leading author of modern Chinese novels. He often writes from memories of his youth. He also sets many of his stories in the area where he was born – Shandong Province in northeastern China.

Mister Mo’s nineteen eighty-seven book “Red Sorghum,” is an example. It is about the extreme violence in rural eastern China during the Communist Revolution in the nineteen twenties and nineteen thirties. The story describes the criminal culture of the time, Japan’s occupation and the terrible conditions faced by farm workers. “Red Sorghum” was later made into a movie.

Mo Yan’s other major works include, “Big Breasts and Wide Hips,” “Republic of Wine” and “Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out.”

The Royal Swedish Academy compared him to two twentieth century writers: American William Faulkner and Colombia’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Mo Yan is fifty-seven. His real name is Guan Moye. Mo Yan means “Don’t Speak.” The writer said he chose the name to remember to stop his tongue from getting him in trouble.

Only one other Chinese-language writer has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Gao Zingjian was honored in two thousand. However, he had been living in France for some time. And, China banned his books because they were critical of the Chinese government.

But, China is celebrating the victory of this native son. Minutes after the award was announced, millions of Chinese expressed pleasure and pride for Mo Yan on social media websites.

Roma in New York

They are known by many names -- including “Gypsies” and “Travelers.” But they favor the name Roma. They are among the most widely-spread and least-understood ethnic groups on earth.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­Faith Lapidus looks at Romany culture and its influences in New York City. Thousands of the world’s estimated twelve million Roma live in that city.

Romany music and celebration were heard and seen at the Drom nightclub recently. The club was the center of the three-week-long New York Gypsy Festival.

The festival presents the musical cultures of a people who moved north from India about a thousand years ago. They settled mainly in southern and eastern Europe, the Balkans and present-day Russia.

Producer Mehmet Dede says the festival is aimed at those who, like him, are “Gypsy at heart.”

“I would like to think that in New York City we are all a little bit of Gypsy.”

The Roma have been influenced by the lands in which they have lived. Similarly, New York City has been influenced by the immigrant groups that moved there, including the Roma.

Ismail Lumanovsky leads The New York Gypsy All Stars musical group. He sees himself as a cultural ambassador.

“By playing Romany music, I wanna offer the New York audience a very free way of looking at music…of expressing the feelings in the moment.”

The Gypsy spirit seems to work for New York’s downtown music scene.

“It’s kinda’ like a European blues.”

“They can feel music. And they…you feel that they love playing.”

Petra Gelbart teaches non-Roma the Romany language, dances and music. And she corrects misinformation.

“We’re not nomadic for the most part. We are people who have been settled for hundreds of years or have certainly been trying to settle and get jobs.”

Roma have long considered themselves outsiders. They have been treated as a dirty, dishonest people in many countries. Throughout history, Roma have experienced extreme discrimination.

Nazi forces murdered an estimated half-million Roma during World War Two. Today, anti-Roma violence is increasing in western and southern Europe.

Even in the United States, some Roma fear prejudice. Petra Gelbart’s mother worked at a bank.

“She just wasn’t gonna tell people that she’s a Gypsy, because -- as she put it -- ‘the minute something goes missing, who do you think they’re gonna blame?’

Still, many New York Roma are proud to continue traditions Roma are known for, like fortune telling. Roma dancer Pirozhka Racz says despite globalization, there will always be Roma.

“Keeping the important things alive --- love and generosity, sharing with family, music and the other arts.

Award Nominated Musicians

On Tuesday, singer Christina Aguilera announced nominations for the American Music Awards. Laurel Bowman has music from some of the nominated performers.

Was anyone surprised to hear the name Justin Bieber during the nominations for favorite male pop/rock artist? Probably not. The eighteen year old singer has only made three albums. But, all have gone platinum --- meaning sales of more than one million copies. In fact, his first album went double platinum.

Justin Bieber’s latest release is “Believe.” It came out in June. The single “Boyfriend” entered Billboard Magazine’s Hot One Hundred chart at number two.

Justin Bieber’s “Believe” was nominated for an American Music Award as favorite pop/rock album. Another nominee is Nicki Minaj’s album “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.”

Nicki Minaj is known for her wild clothing, colorful hairstyles and exciting performances. The first single and video from “Roman Reloaded” is no exception. A green haired Minaj dances on a beach and in the ocean wearing only a small, bright pink bikini.

Several musicians were honored with nominations for favorite artist in the alternative rock group. Gotye was certainly expected. The Australian’s hit song “Somebody That I Used to Know” went to number one on the Hot One Hundred chart. It also won several awards and was covered on the American television series “Glee.”

The groups Black Keys and Linkin Park were also nominated as favorite alternative rock artist. “El Camino,” Black Keys’ most recent record came out in two thousand eleven.

Linkin Park has already won more than forty music awards in the group’s sixteen year career. Its latest album, “Living Things,” came out in June and is already rated gold. We leave you now with Linkin Park performing “Castle of Glass,” from the album, “Living Things.”

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