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.
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.