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.
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.
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.
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.