Masha Hamilton is the author of four acclaimed novels, most recently 31 Hours (2009), a Washington Post selection for one of the best novels of the year and an Indie Choice pick by independent booksellers. The Post wrote: "Hamilton has used both her considerable empathy as a writer and her experience in the Middle East to create an intimate portrait ... (She's) made it very hard to tear your gaze away." Publisher's Weekly called it "gorgeous and complex." Hamilton is also the founder of two world literacy programs: the Camel Book Drive, begun in 2007 to supply a camel-borne library in northeastern Kenya, and the Afghan Women's Writing Project, begun in 2009 to foster creative and intellectual exchange between Afghan women writers and American women authors and teachers.
Her previous novels include Staircase of a Thousand Steps (2001), a Booksense pick by independent booksellers and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection; The Distance Between Us (2004), named one of the best books of the year by Library Journal; and The Camel Bookmobile (2007), also a Booksense pick. Booksense called it an excellent book club selection, and the New York Times said: "Hamilton makes us see how much is really at stake in a poverty-stricken place where every possession carries the weight of significance."
She worked as a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press for five years in the Middle East, where she covered the intefadeh, the peace process and the partial Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. Then she spent five years in Moscow, where she was a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, wrote a newspaper column, Postcard from Moscow, and reported for NBC/Mutual Radio. She wrote about Kremlin politics as well as life for average Russians under Gorbachev and Yeltsin during the coup and collapse of the Soviet Union. She reported from Afghanistan in 2004, and returned in 2008. In 2006, she traveled in Kenya to research The Camel Bookmobile and to interview street kids in Nairobi and drought and famine victims in the isolated northeast.
A Brown University graduate, she has been awarded fiction fellowships from Yaddo, Blue Mountain Center, Squaw Valley Community of Writers and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. She teaches for Gotham Writers' Workshop and has also taught at the 92nd Street Y in New York City and at a number of writers' workshops around the country. She is a licensed shiatsu practitioner and lives with her family in Brooklyn.
This biography was last updated on 09/27/2010.
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Masha Hamilton describes the inspiration for her 2007 novel, The Camel Bookmobile
The Camel Bookmobile made its first run almost a decade ago. Three
dromedaries trudged through dusty, arid northeastern Kenya near the border with
Somalia to bring a library to settlements so tiny and far-flung theyd become
nearly invisible; places lacking roads and schools, where most people had never
held a book between their hands and where they lived daily with drought, hunger
I first heard about the project from my daughter one autumn afternoon as I drove my three children to the Bear Canyon Library in Arizonas Tanque Verde valley. One detail in particular piqued my interest. Because books were rare and precious in the reaches of Africa far from the safari vacationers, the camel-powered library initiated a severe fine. If even one person lost a book, the bookmobile would boycott that entire village, choosing another to visit instead.
The fine was intended both to protect books so literacy could spread, and to encourage a wandering people to adopt the practices of a more settled world. But reality, as always, would be more complex than theory, I knew.
As I listened, the entire arc ...
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