Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Egyptian "Free" Speech, and Women Speaking Freely

Newspaper editor Ibrahim Issa has been sent to the slammer for publishing "rumors" that President Mubarak is sick. So much for free press in Egypt.


Suheir Hammad and Gloria Steinem discuss guarding their nest, booty calls, and office politics in New York Magazine.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Map of Home in the Christian Science Monitor

The novel receives a really nice review today in the CSM. Here's the first paragraph:
Home is where the heart is. There’s no place like home. Home sweet home. Randa Jarrar takes all the sappy, beloved clichés about “where you hang your hat” and blows them to smithereens in her energizing, caustically comic debut novel, A Map of Home.
Check it out!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Garlic Goodness

When I first moved to Michigan, I discovered a rich garlic dipping cream at a catered event, at which we were served Arabic food. I'd never seen, heard of, or tasted the cream before, so I did a little investigation and found out they sold it at Ali Baba's.

Forward a couple of years, and I've been going to Ali Baba's twice a month to shell out $1.36 for the sauce (sometimes charging it to my debit card, much to the chagrin of the cashier dude).

Last night, I finally asked the guy what the origin of the sauce was.

"Yeah, but where?"
"Um, let me ask this guy." Yells to guy in the kitchen: "Where's the sauce from?"
"The Middle East."
"Where in the Middle East?" I said.
"The whole Middle East."
"No, I've never heard of it before."
Blank stare.
"I grew up there."
"Kuwait and Egypt, and a little in Palestine."
"Egypt is not in the Middle East."
"Of course it is."
"No. The Middle East is Lebanon and Syria."
"And a few other places."
"I can't hear you." (He gets out of the kitchen and comes to the counter.)
"Where did the sauce originate?"
"With me, honey. I make the sauce. I'm the one who makes it."
"What's in it?"
"Garlic, lemon, salt."
"And oil."
"What kind of oil?"
"What else? It tastes heavy."
"Corn oil. It makes it taste better."
"Right. Thanks!"
"Egypt isn't the Middle East."
"Okay. Bye."

I went home and enjoyed the sauce with Mr. Rockslinga and Mini Rockslinga. We are still licking our chops. Also: we know where the Middle East starts and ends.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

The California leg of the tour was fabulous!
I got to see lots of old friends and meet email pals I'd never met in real life.
& It was so much fun to read to new faces. Yay!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bewteen The Lines Interview

I recently did a radio interview with Valerie Jackson for the Atlanta NPR radio show, Between the Lines. You can listen to it here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I'm leaving for three book tour stops in CA. I'm excited to see Make/Shift Magazine friends, blog BFFs, and old friends. If you're around, I hope you'll come! Details:

September 17
Skylight Books
1818 N. Vermont Avenue
7:30 PM

September 18
Readers' Books
130 E. Napa Street
7:30 PM


September 19
Books Inc. in Opera Plaza
601 Van Ness, SF

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Deuce Reading

I'm reading in An Arbor in less than seven hours. At the Shaman Drum Book Store. If you're a Michigan reader, please come!
UPDATE: That was possibly the best reading ever. I think the presence of Mr. Rockslinga and Mini-Rockslinga made it so rockin', as well as the cheers and the support of all my Michigan peeps. 'Twas a packed house. Loved it!


On my way out to the reading, I found a slip of paper slid under my hotel room door warning me about Ike. Ike was possibly coming to town, and I was possibly going to come home to a hotel without power.

The reading was spectacular. Almost all my Austin friends came, and writer friends like Michalle Gould, Karen Olsson, and Jim Lewis, showed up as well. I read two sections and signed books while Emily, a whip-smart BookPeople employee, serenaded me with the things she loved most about the book. It felt fabulous.

Later, I drank frozen mojitos on a roof-top bar by the bookstore. I felt like I was in Alexandria: the heat and the outdoor couch ambience. Even later, I just felt drunk. Note the blurry drunken camera lens.

The next day, I gorged on migas and chicken friend steak and went for a baptismal dip in Barton Springs. I saw several Ike evacuees, but they were swimming and eating migas, too. I also spotted a pair of topless, redhead twins. Only in Austin...

I ended the night with a quintessential Austin activity: watching a documentary on the side of a garage. We saw a "Ho Bus" on the corner and posed in front, hos that we are, and were informed by a local that the Ho Bus was on sale for $1,400. We're considering buying it.

I'll be back in TX for the Texas Book Festival, which I'm really looking forward to. Mr. Rockslinga will finally be introduced to Austin and to all my friends.

Check out a list of Bookfest authors here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I'll be reading at BookPeople tomorrow, Thursday, at 7PM- I can't wait to see all my Austin peeps! I wrote the novel in TX, in and around Austin, and this will be a homecoming of sorts. I can't wait. Also, tacos. Tacos and chicken friend steak. Mmmm.

Another review

This one from BookBrowse:
Coming-of-age themes are common, but the intelligent narration provides more than enough interest to sustain the momentum. Rare is the book that makes one stay up to finish it; this is one of them, simultaneously circling in its family dramas and spiraling outwards in its connections to history and place. Adult and teen readers alike would enjoy Nidali's honest portrayal. She's the Muslim equivalent of J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, tender, caustic and wise in all the right moments.
There's also an interview on the site for your pleasure...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Short Story Love

Just realized that yesterday's NYT Book Review was all about short story collections-- Annie Proulx's, Sana Krasikov's, Anne Enright's, and Claire Keegan's. Very exciting...

Sunday, September 07, 2008


...were so fun! I'd never been to Boston; it was great to meet Smoki Bacon and do an interview for the Literati Scene...

Followed by a walk down Newberry...

Ending at the Public Library, where I wrote...

and read in the courtyard...

Then stood outside, where I found out from my publicist that my book got 4 stars and a review in this week's issue of People Magazine...

Later that evening, I ended up at Harvard Square Bookstore, where I read...

I forgot my camera Saturday night, which was probably a good thing, because it rained like a motha and I walked around the Lower East Side barefoot to avoid Soggy Shoe Syndrome. My friend and superstar agent accompanied me to Bluestockings. It was an amazing turn-out: all the Other Press peeps came, as did my sister and brother, my college BFF, my Norton Island friends, some long-time readers, plus Richard Grayson, Sean Carman, and Maud Newton.

I had such a great time listening to the rain fall outside and my friends laugh inside.

I feel so blessed.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Reading, Bluestockings, Saturday at 7

If you're in NYC: please brave the storm tomorrow and come see me read at Bluestockings on Allen Street. I'll start at 7. Old friends and family will be there; I'm so excited to see them and to meet all the wonderfully talented Other Press people. And I'd love to finally meet all my New York area readers, so come!

Hakawati Review

My review of Rabih Alameddine's enchanting novel, The Hakawati, appears in this month's issue of Words Without Borders. A short excerpt of the review here:
More than three quarters of the way into the novel, Alameddine writes, “The best stories always begin with the appearance of a woman.” He follows his own advice, opening his novel centuries in the past with Fatima, the Alexandrian. In order to help her emir produce a son, Fatima offers to travel back to Egypt to visit a healer. When the emir asks why the healer can’t come to him, Fatima says healers never leave home, because home is the source of their magic. And thus the novel launches its first character on an intricate, sometimes deadly, and always absorbing adventure, and the rest of the cast follows Fatima’s example. First to follow is Osama al-Kharrat, the narrator of the book, who has come back to Lebanon after a long self-imposed exile in L.A. to stand vigil at his father’s hospital bedside. Osama feels foreign to himself in Lebanon. “I was a tourist in a bizarre land,” he says, “I was home.” In the first three pages of his novel, Alameddine mentions the magic, foreignness, and pull of home—and the idea of belonging. Exile becomes a central theme for the rest of the book.
Enjoy the entire review here, and better yet, buy the book.

Also in the issue, "international writers contemplate the reversals of various fortunes," with stories from Sarajevo, Sao Paulo, and more.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Harvard Bookstore, Friday, 7

I'm reading with Padma Viswanathan, author of The Toss of a Lemon, tomorrow night at the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge. It's an event sponsored by the Center for New Words. I hope you'll check us out, or forward the info to your Boston friends!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

It's that magical day...

My son started middle school today. I taught my first class of the semester. And...the novel is officially out. I saw stacks of it at Shaman Drum and Borders- such a great feeling. I'm so excited!

The Decatur Book Fest

...was so cool! Some highlights:

  • Seeing Amiri Baraka read and talk to a packed house at the Decatur Library. He read us some "Lowcoos" (African-American Haikus) and a short story involving a magical clothing laser gun.
  • Walking by the blue and white "Jewish believers in Jesus" booth. They were giving out high-energy bible quizzes.
  • Hearing ZZ Packer tell me she won something by getting my name right on Maud's ridiculously hard Southern Lit Quiz
  • Drinking real sweet-tea.
  • Seeing Kudzu.
  • Going to an author party in the Old Courthouse.
  • Riding MARTA (Moving Asses Rapidly Through Atlanta).
  • Seeing a couple of long-time readers of my work in person at the panel.

  • I miss the South!