The Other Americans

October 18th, 2018

Exciting news! My new novel, The Other Americans, will be published next spring by Pantheon in the US and Bloomsbury in the UK. The book is about the suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant in California, which sets off a chain of events that reveals unexpected ties between people in a small town in the Mojave.

Late one spring night, Driss Guerraoui is walking across a darkened intersection when he is killed by a speeding car. The repercussions of this event bring together an eclectic cast of characters: his daughter Nora, a jazz composer who must return to the small town she thought she’d left behind for good; his widow Maryam, who still pines after her life in the old country; Efrain, a witness whose personal circumstances prevent him from coming forward; Jeremy, a former classmate of Nora’s and a veteran of the Iraq war; Coleman, a detective who is slowly discovering her son’s secrets; Anderson, a neighbor who is trying to reconnect with his family; and the murdered man himself. Narrated in turn by each of these characters, The Other Americans probes the invisible connections that tie Americans together even as they remain deeply divided. As the mystery of what happened to Driss Guerraoui unfolds, a family’s secrets are revealed, a town’s hypocrisies are faced, and love, in its messy and unpredictable forms, is born.

The novel has received early praise from the Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee (!!!) and from my brilliant friend Viet Thanh Nguyen. As you know, pre-orders are hugely important in the few months leading up to publication. I would so appreciate it if you ordered the book from your indie bookstore or online retailer. Or you can ask your local library to order it for you.

I will be going on tour next spring to promote The Other Americans, and will post details on the events page as soon as they’re confirmed. Until then, be well!

Summer Is Here

July 6th, 2018

Summer is here at last! I’m spending my days reading (and also watching the World Cup.) I’ve always loved the long hours of uninterrupted reading in the summer, though this year it’s busier than usual, as I’m chairing the fiction panel judging the National Book Awards. But I do have a few pieces that have come out here and there since my last update.

For The Nation, I wrote about the distorted language used in discussions about immigration, asylum-seeking children being separated from their parents, the generational effect of ICE raids on Hispanic communities, and the social shaming of racists in public spaces. In May, I spoke to NPR’s Weekend Edition about patriotism, contributed to a feature about the late Philip Roth’s best book, and talked to my friend (and former publicist) Michael Taeckens about the art of book criticism for Poets & Writers. More recently, I wrote about tribalism in American politics for the New York Times Magazine.

Photo: With Ngugi wa Thiong’o at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in April.

Recent Pubs, Upcoming Events, etc.

January 23rd, 2018

Well, winter break was much too brief. I went hiking in Joshua Tree, caught up on much-needed sleep, and read a few books, but now January is here. This month marks one year since Donald Trump became president, and I have a couple of related pieces in print. One is a column for a special issue of The Nation, a reflection on the madness and danger of the past year. And the other is an essay for Harper’s on the subject of public persuasion, where I look at U.S. efforts to “win hearts and minds” of people whose countries it occupies, and why such efforts usually fail. Other contributors to this forum include David Bromwich, Garth Greenwell, Hanif Abdurraqib, Kelly Clancy, Mychal Denzel Smith, and T. M. Luhrmann. Pick up a copy of the magazine or, better yet, subscribe!

I’ve also finalized my schedule for spring and early fall. I’ll be visiting Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, and North Carolina, and I’d love it if you came and said hello. Some of the talks will be about The Moor’s Account, others about Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, and yet others about some of my essays and nonfiction work.

Fall Update

November 27th, 2017

I’ve been immersed in my new novel for the past several months, and neglected to update this website, but I did manage to publish a few shorter pieces that some of you may find interesting. For the New York Times Magazine, I wrote about borders and walls in April, and about immigrants and assimilation in August. For The Nation, I wrote about the Senate’s failed health care bill, the narrative around mass shootings in America, and the need to push back against partisanship in the recent sexual assault scandals. Other than that, I’ve been trying, like so many of you, to find ways to deal with the onslaught of terrible news and to push back in whatever way I can. Take good care, all. Come say hi to me sometime.

And Now, Some News

April 18th, 2017

Friends, I’m thrilled to share with you the news that my new novel, The Other Americans, about the suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant in a small California town, told through multiple narrators, including his daughter, his wife, a witness, a veteran of the Iraq war, and the dead man himself, will be published by Pantheon Books. This will be followed by Conditional Citizens, a book of nonfiction tracing the relationship of America with its Muslims, using the lenses of literature, history, and politics. (I don’t have release dates yet, but I’m very excited for you to read them when they’re ready.)

Until then, perhaps you might be interested in my shorter pieces. Some of my recent columns for The Nation include a plea to save the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, a discussion of executive orders that target people of color, and a reflection on the importance of civic engagement. I also wrote an essay for the L.A. Times about balancing public and private lives, and reviewed Joan Didion’s South and West for the New York Times. Happy Spring!

Photo: Willow Hole Trail, Joshua Tree.

Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends

January 11th, 2017

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I spent the holiday season holed up in a cabin in Sun Valley, Idaho, trying to get some rest and catch up on sleep. I’ve been struggling with insomnia for a while now, and my schedule hasn’t helped: in the last six months, I traveled to Palestine and Israel for a literary festival; gave talks in North Carolina, Washington, DC, and upstate New York; taught fiction at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference; and took part in the Aké Fest in Abeokuta, Nigeria. I’ve also written my regular column for The Nation and contributed essays to the Los Angeles Times on literature and to The New York Times Magazine on identity politics. But the insomnia has also given me hours and hours and hours in which to think about my new novel. I’m fairly obsessed with it, with its characters and their troubles, so I love spending time in their company. Still, the sleeplessness hasn’t been great for my health and, given what the Trump presidency is sure to bring on the political and social level, I’m determined to adopt a better routine in order to be better prepared for the fight that lies ahead.


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