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“To overcome my fear, I shackled myself with hope, its links heavier than any metal known to man.”
― Laila LalamiThe Moor’s Account

Country: Morocco

Why We Love Her: Laila is a giant of cultural commentary and literary criticism with bylines and columns in major journals like The Los Angeles Review of BooksThe Nation and The New York Times. Nuance and an eclectic intelligence characterises her non-fiction essays and articles. Her fiction writing comes at the reader from a unique viewpoint and is closely woven with events both current and past.  Laila counters the common erasure and suppression of voices using fiction and it makes for thrilling reading.

Her debut collection of short stories, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits focused on sad and beautiful tales of migration. Four soon-to-be immigrants are in a boat on the way to Spain. When it capsizes and they have to swim for their lives. Laila paints a delicate picture of what drove them to this cataclysmic event and what will happen after.

 

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Her first novel, Secret Son was also marked by intimacy, in a detailed portrait of a young boy, discovering family secrets, his own identity and what it means to be an adult in his society.

Most recently, Laila’s ambitious historical novel, The Moor’s Account has been particularly lauded. It was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize For Fiction. It is written from the perspective of Estavenico. He was the first black explorer of America as he was brought as a slave during the perilous conquistador expedition of 1527. Laila writes his adventures in the form of imagined memoirs which bring the early founding of America and even the concept of “America” into new focus.

She is currently a professor of Creative Writing at University of California, Riverside but we can’t wait to see what book she comes out with next.

“A name is precious; it carries inside it a language, a history, a set of traditions, a particular way of looking at the world. Losing it meant losing my ties to all those things too.”
― Laila LalamiThe Moor’s Account

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“His anger took many shapes: sometimes soft and familiar, like a round stone he had caressed for so long that is was perfectly smooth and polished; sometimes it was thin and sharp like a blade that could slice through anything; sometimes it had the form of a star, radiating his hatred in all directions, leaving him numb and empty inside.”  ― Laila LalamiSecret Son

 

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