Monday, May 7, 2012

Around the World

Rabih Alameddine was born in Amman, Jordan to Lebanese parents, and grew up in Kuwait and Lebanon. He was educated in England and America, and has an engineering degree from UCLA and an MBA from the University of San Francisco. ~from the bio page at Rabih Alameddine's website

Ali introduced me to the work of Alameddine only recently. I took one read of chapter one in The Hakawati and knew he had to be a mentor - and there's more than one reason for me. The first and most important reason: he's a fantastic writer. The second reason is that we're wrapping up a fantasy-laden selection of writers and he moves us gracefully from fantasy to more literati via some magical realism elements in his work.

And the third reason: Some of you may have noticed that the previous selected mentors have a certain white-bred Britishness...this wasn't intentional, it's just kind of how it fell out. Dead white guys - let's be straight here - dominate the playing field and so their work is the work I've come across the most.

But the international landscape is the world we live in nowadays and it would be a lousy blog-of-mentors if we didn't read and talk about as much as possible. I refuse to be lousy.

So before we talk writing, shall we talk about reading widely and why it's important?

After such literary debacles as the Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson's being called into question about details in his book, (there was a recent dismissal of a case claiming he used his book to fradulently raise funds for his charity) the reason that we should read widely is simple: so we know what conversation to have.

Three Cups of Tea was required reading for military personel, it inspired hundreds of thousands of people to be active in the Middle East, and I think all that's fine. Just fine. But I worry that it may have been misleading. After all, even if every single word Mortenson wrote was true - it's still a white, American guy telling us how it is.

Really, if anyone wants to learn about a culture, about how it works and communicates and what it values - you have to turn to that culture's writers and the stories they tell. You'll start getting the picture pretty quick.

I didn't know half so much about the conflicts riddling the Middle East before reading Alameddine. And he's only one writer, with only part of the overall story. So far, I've read two of his books: The Hakawati and I, the Divine.   

We'll be spending the whole month on Alameddine, but he is the only Middle Eastern author we'll cover this year. So I thought we could take a peek at an interview with another Middle Eastern writer, a children's author: Rana Azzoubi from Jordan...apparently stories may differ, but the writing process is painfully similar all around the world. I pulled this interview from a website called Arabic Literature (In English) and you can see five more interviews there as well: Arab writers on why they write.



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