Reading Recap: Elliott Bay Book Company

Audience: About 35.
Anxiety index: 7 (out of 10).
Book given away: Minaret, by Leila Aboulela.
Surprise guest(s): My friend Megan C., whom I haven’t seen since grad school.
No. of Moroccans who said hello:2

One of my favorite bookstores in the U.S. is the Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle; it was a special treat to have a reading here. In addition, bookseller Rick Simonson has been very supportive of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits (going as far as to give copies of the book to people coming through town) so I felt I was among friends when I arrived. On top of that, the Arab Center of Washington co-sponsored the event, and they did a wonderful job getting the word out.

I read from the middle of the book, the first scene in “Better Luck Tomorrow.” One of the most pleasurable parts of readings for me is the Q&A–I’m always interested to hear what people have to say. This time, I had a couple of questions about the choice of writing fiction in English. Even though it isn’t my native language, it is the language in which I function–I communicate with it, I read in it, I think in it. After a few years of living in the States, I found that my fluency in my own native language wasn’t at the level where I would want it to be in order to write well. Now, the strange thing is that when I write my characters, I hear their dialogue in my ear in Arabic, and so the challenge for me is to write in a way that I can retain the rhythm of the Moroccan language as well.

Later, I did some shopping at the store, picking up a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy, on Rick’s recommendation. It provides a Latin American view on the making of the New World, through short vignettes describing major and minor historical events of the 15th century onward.