Gone Writing

June 30th, 2015

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Summer is here. I am spending it working on my new novel, so things are likely to be very quiet on this blog and on my social media accounts for a while. But I did want to mention that my review of Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation, an inventive retelling of Albert Camus’ The Stranger from the point of view of the victim’s brother, appeared on the cover of the New York Times Book Review earlier this month.

Also, The Moor’s Account will come out in paperback in the U.S. on August 18 and in the U.K. on August 27. I will be going on book tour again in the fall. Check the events page for details.

Pulitzer Prize Finalist

April 21st, 2015

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I was teaching an undergraduate fiction workshop yesterday when I received a text from my friend Mark congratulating me. “On what?” I asked. I had no idea what he was talking about. Then I found out that The Moor’s Account was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction, along with Richard Ford’s Let Me Be Frank With You and Joyce Carol Oates’s Lovely, Dark, Deep. The winner was Anthony Doerr for All The Light We Cannot See. In shock, I blurted out the news to my students, who erupted in applause and cheers.

I’m thrilled and grateful for this recognition, and I am especially honored to be included in such fine company. When I came across the story of Mustafa/Estebanico six years ago, I immediately knew it had to be told in the form of a novel, but I worried that I did not have the talent to do it and that, even if I did somehow pull it off, no one would care about it. But this character simply wouldn’t let go of me, so I took a leap. I wrote the book I wanted to write, with no expectation of it ever finding a readership or garnering any attention. But, oh, it’s so nice when that happens! My heartfelt thanks to the Pulitzer Prize fiction judges.

Last week, The Moor’s Account was also named a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in fiction, a national prize for published writers of African descent. The other nominees are Chris Abani’s The Secret History of Las Vegas, Ishmael Beah’s Radiance of Tomorrow, Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State, Nadifa Mohamed’s The Orchard of Lost Souls, and Tiphanie Yanique’s Land of Love and Drowning. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in Washington, DC, in October.

Spring Events

March 23rd, 2015

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I’m popping back on the blog for a couple of announcements. The audio book of The Moor’s Account, read by Neil Shah, was released by Audible last month. UK rights to the book have sold to Mitchell Albert at Garnet, with publication scheduled for August 2015, which will coincide with the paperback release of the book with Vintage, here in the U.S. And I am back on the road again! I will be doing two events at the Tennessee Williams Festival in New Orleans. Details below:

March 27, 2015
10:30 AM
Deceptive Histories, Truthful Fictions
Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival
The Historic New Orleans Collection
New Orleans, Louisiana

March 28, 2015
11:30 AM
Panel: The Transnationalists – American Writers on Border Crossings
Molly Crabapple, Phil Klay, Laila Lalami, moderated by Pamela Paul
Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival
Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom

Then, in April, I will be doing a panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

April 19, 2015
12:30 PM
Fiction: Untold Stories
Ryan Gattis, Laila Lalami, Atticus Lish, Nina Revoyr, moderated by Michelle Franke
Los Angeles Times Festival of Books
University of Southern California

Do come by and say hi!

Photo: Morning dew on a recent hike in Solstice Canyon, Santa Monica.

On Charlie Hebdo

January 20th, 2015

My essay on the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks appears in the February 2nd issue of The Nation magazine. Here is an excerpt:

Two men in balaclavas burst into Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris and opened fire on the editorial staff, killing five cartoonists, a columnist, a maintenance worker, an economist, a visitor, a copy-editor and two police officers.

To make sense of the senseless, we tell ourselves stories. The story is that this is the latest salvo in an ongoing clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. The story is that the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was the last bastion of free thought in a cowed press, a press that has bowed to political correctness and is now too afraid to criticize Islam. The story is that Muslim leaders remain silent about this atrocity. The story is that France has failed to integrate its Muslim citizens, descendants of immigrants from its former colonies. The story is that France has sent troops to fight in Muslim countries. The story is that there are double standards.

None of these stories will do, at least not for me. I find myself reading them in different guises in the national press, hoping they will enlighten or satisfy me, but something is always missing.

You can read the rest of the essay here. Thank you to all who shared it on Facebook and Twitter, emailed me about it, or commented on it.

And Then We Came To the End

December 7th, 2014

I was so happy to return home this morning that when I stepped off the jetway at LAX, I wanted to fall on my knees and kiss the ground. The book tour was great fun, but after seventeen cities I was starting to show signs of wear. There were days when a cab driver would ask me where I had flown from and it would take me a minute to remember where I had been or even where I was going. Now I’m looking forward to spending the next few months at home and getting back to my writing routine.

Before I disappear into my writing cave again, I wanted to mention that The Moor’s Account was included in several year-end lists: the New York Times Notable Books of 2014, NPR’s Best Books of 2014, and the Los Angeles Times Holiday Book Recommendations. Thank you to all who read the novel, reviewed it, and recommended it. I am grateful.

Update! The Moor’s Account is also one of the Wall Street Journal‘s Ten Best Books of the year.

(Illustration credit: Jon McNaught, New York Times)

Last Stop on The Tour

December 1st, 2014

Good news! The Moor’s Account received a great review in the December 1st issue of the New Yorker. It was also selected by Kirkus Reviews as one of the Best Fiction Books of 2014. Thank you again to everyone who has read the book, shared news about it, or attended one of my events.

My last stop on the Moor’s Account book tour will be in Austin, where I will take part in the UT Symposium for African Writers. Here are the details for my reading:

December 3, 2014
3:00 PM
Reading and conversation with Maaza Mengiste
University of Texas at Austin
Liberal Arts Building 1.302E

I’m looking forward to talking African literature with my friend Maaza and with the other writers present. If you happen to be in Austin this week, come on by. In the meantime, here is a review I wrote for the New York Times about Nuruddin Farah’s new novel, Hiding in Plain Sight.

November Events

November 9th, 2014

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What a pleasure and an honor it was to be part of the Chinua Achebe Legacy Series at CCNY! Thank you to all who came to my reading. I’m back home now, but already preparing for two other events. I will be in Arizona next week, for a reading at Yavapai College:

November 14, 2014
7:00 PM
Reading and on-stage conversation
Yavapai College
1100 E. Sheldon Street
Prescott, Arizona

The following weekend, I will be in Florida for the Miami Book Fair, doing a reading with Kathryn Harrison and Kristin Downey. Here are the details:

November 23, 2014
2:30 PM
Miami Book Fair
Room 8503
Building 8, 5th Floor
Miami, Florida

For those who may be interested, here is a short interview I did with PEN, and a longer, chattier one I did with Aaron Bady, as part of his ‘African Writers in a New World’ series. The great Michael Schaub also reviewed The Moor’s Account on his Book Report show.


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