Spring Update

Laila Lalami
Friends, I’m delighted to share the news that I’ve been awarded a yearlong fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. I’ll be using the time and space to work on my new novel, The Dream Hotel, which follows a museum archivist who gets detained after an algorithm accuses her of a crime. (That’s a picture of me in the California desert, wondering if I can handle an east coast winter!)

Speaking of California, the New York Times Magazine devoted a special issue to the future of the state, looking at everything from housing to the YIMBY movement. I contributed the opening essay, which uses the history of California’s highways and byways to explore how the past shapes the future. (The stunning illustration is by Benjamin Marra.) Take a look, let me know what you think!

In August, Bloomsbury UK is releasing a new edition of The Moor’s Account, with this gorgeous cover art by Carmen R. Balit. It really is thrilling to see this novel continue to find new readers, and I’m so grateful to all the booksellers, librarians, teachers, and festival curators who’ve embraced it and continue to share it with people. I spoke to NPR affiliate KUNM about it just recently. Have a listen if you’re curious.

In other news, if you find yourself in Berlin this summer, please come see me at the African Book Festival, which takes place August 25-27 and will feature Leila Aboulela, Véronique Tadjo, and your humble servant, among others.

On a less celebratory note, I found out recently that my novel The Other Americans was banned by a school district in Ohio because it included “a sexual intimacy scene.” As you know, book bans are on the rise across the United States. (Often it takes a single complaint by a parent for a book to be removed from a school library or a course reading list!) If you’re in one of these districts, please connect to Books Unbanned, an initiative by the Brooklyn Public Library that allows teens to get a free library card to access their extensive ebook library.

And finally, for those of you in Los Angeles, I’ll be in conversation with the writer, editor, and critic David Ulin about my most recent novel, The Other Americans, on July 13 at 6 pm. The setting is Zibby’s, the very cozy new bookstore in Santa Monica. Come say hello!

That’s about it for now. For more updates, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram. You can also check out my events page for public readings and talks.

New translation, publications, events

So much has happened since my last update that I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s see. This summer, I wrote about the tragedy at the Spanish border post of Melilla, where 23 people, many of them refugees from countries like Sudan, died in confrontations with Moroccan border police. The massacre is one of many that have been happening recently, as a result of a decade-long effort on the part of the EU to outsource its border enforcement to countries outside its doors. For example:

[The EU] has signed agreements with Libya and Tunisia to intercept Europe-bound migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and take them to detention centers in their own countries. It has arranged for its border agents to deploy in Senegal to prevent migrants from reaching the Canary Islands. And it has erected a network of walls and fences between Greece and Turkey to stop migrants from the south and between Poland and Belarus to stop those coming from the east. The union has also spent millions on virtual walls — the technology that makes it possible to police borders, detect human movement and identify migrants.

You can read the op-ed in full here. And if you’re interested in reading more about migration and borders within the U.S., take a look at my book, Conditional Citizens.

In October, my novel The Moor’s Account came out in Germany, under the title Der Verbotene Bericht, translated by Michaela Grabinger. Thank you to the many readers who’ve posted about it on Instagram and shared pictures, reels, and reviews—like this piece in Falter or this essay in Taz.

This fall, I did several interviews, including one for Mychal Denzel Smith’s podcast, Open Form, where we talked about one of my favorite movies, The Godfather; another with Afikra, where we discussed my work more generally; and yet another (in French) with the television channel 2M, to promote the French translation of my novel The Other Americans.

More recently, I compiled a Tangier reading list for the New York Times Book Review. If you’ve ever thought of visiting the city, or if you’re curious, take a look at the fiction and nonfiction I’ve recommended.

I’ve just started to update my events page for 2023. If you’re interested in having me speak on your campus or to your cultural organization, get in touch! And of course, you can follow me on Instagram or (for as long as it lasts) Twitter.

Spring News

And just like that, spring is here. The trees around campus are growing new leaves, bees are flinging themselves into new blooms, classes have resumed in person. I don’t know if this is a new beginning, but it sort of maybe feels like it. So I wanted to pop back in here to share some recent news.

The Other Americans came out in Italy, in a beautiful translation by Andrea Branchi. Thank you to the Italian readers who’ve been posting it about on social media, and especially on Instagram! It’s been great to see the nice notices it’s getting. Special thanks as well to my German and Dutch readers, who’ve been so welcoming of this book.

I also wanted to mention that I’ll be at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books later this month, talking fiction with Claire Vaye Watkins and Carol Edgarian. In May, I’ll be at the PEN World Voices festival in New York, moderating a conversation between Sheila Heti and Jennifer Egan, and discussing citizenship and belonging with Aminatta Forna. Then later this summer, I’ll be on the fiction faculty at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Ripton, Vermont. And in the fall, I’ll be traveling to American University, where my book Conditional Citizens is a first-year common read. I hope to see you at one of the events!

The Falling Leaves…

It rained for about a couple of hours last week, which means that fall has finally arrived in California (or at least I can pretend that it did.) Fall also happens to be book award season and, while there was a lot to celebrate in this year’s various selections, nothing thrilled me more than to hear that Abdulrazak Gurnah won the Nobel Prize in Literature. His work probes at the complicated nature of belonging for exiles, refugees, and immigrants in a world that too often demands that we make our allegiances clear and our identities simple. Back in 2005, I reviewed his novel Desertion for The Nation and later did a panel conversation with him at the PEN World Voices Festival. He was one of the nicest and most humble writers I’ve ever met. You can listen to me and others discuss his work on this NPR segment for All Things Considered. And if you’re new to his fiction, I would suggest starting with By the Sea and Paradise.

The paperback edition of Conditional Citizens releases next week, on October 19. I have a few online events coming up, details of which I’ve posted here. More are coming soon. You may have heard about the disruption to supply lines, so if you’re thinking of giving books as a holiday gift, it’s a good idea to order early.