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.
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 TimesFestival 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!
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 forThe 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 Citizensreleases 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.
I can’t believe it’s been a year since my last update! My collection of essays, Conditional Citizens, comes out in paperback on October 19. The beautiful cover design is by Isabel Urbina Peña, who also designed the paperback cover for The Other Americans. I love hardcovers, but honestly most of my books are paperbacks; they’re light and portable and I find it less sacrilegious to scribble notes all over the pages. Anyway, I hope you’ll suggest Conditional Citizens to your book club, add it to your class reading list, or buy a copy for yourself or a friend. The pandemic continues to affect supply chains, so if you’re thinking of giving it as a gift for the holidays, you should consider pre-ordering your copy now.
Over the last few months, I’ve also written a few pieces that have since appeared in print. I reviewed Matt Salesses’s Craft in the Real World, which I found to be “a significant contribution to discussions of the art of fiction and a necessary challenge to received views about whose stories are told, how they are told, and for whom they are intended.”
More recently, I wrote an essay on the trauma of 9/11, the wars that followed, and the malleability of memory for the New York TimesSunday Review. In it, I reflect on how the U.S. built a national memory around what happened, and what this memory leaves out: “The story America told about itself after Sept. 11 was one of heroism and resilience in the aftermath of a brutal attack; the invasion of other countries, and the interruption of their political destinies, had no place in it.” This piece was tough to write. I’m very grateful to those of you who’ve shared it on social media and emailed me about it.
I’ve also been busy with press in support of foreign translations of The Other Americans. After delays caused by the pandemic, the novel came out in quick succession in German, Dutch, Persian, and Arabic. I continue to do bookstore events, college classes, and festival appearances in support of this book.