Randa Jarrar is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, and translator. Randa grew up in Kuwait and Egypt, and she moved to the US after the first Gulf War. At the age of 13, she enrolled in 10th grade, and went on to attend Sarah Lawrence College at 16. Two years later, she became a single mom, and by the age of 22, she had a Masters' degree, a four- year-old, and a desire to write a novel. She began A Map of Home at the age of 23, writing the bulk of it in a trailer in small-town Texas. A Map of Home was published in half a dozen languages & won a Hopwood Award, an Arab-American Book Award, and was named one of the best novels of 2008 by the Barnes and Noble Review. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Five Chapters, Guernica, The Oxford American, The New York Times Magazine, The Utne Reader, Salon.com, The Rumpus, and others. She has received fellowships from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Hedgebrook, Caravansarai, and Eastern Frontier, and she was chosen to take part in Beirut39, which celebrates the 39 most gifted writers of Arab origin under the age of 40.
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In an exclusive interview with BookBrowse reviewer Karen Rigby, Randa Jarrar discusses how her personal experiences and insights into Muslim culture are reflected in her writing, and her plans for future books
Readers are likely to notice similarities between your bio. and Nidali's background and may wonder if the novel is something of a roman a clef - how did you go about creating her character?
Nidali and I definitely have a lot in common shes an exaggerated version of my younger self. Shes brave and funny. The most important thing for me was making her voice grow over the course of the book. So in the beginning her voice is very child-like, and as she approaches adulthood it becomes more profane.
I still remember where I was when the novels first lines came to me. For months, Id been writing failed first chapters with characters that were similar to Nidali but not as energetic or sassy. But when those first lines came to me, that first chapter flowed out, and Nidali was finally born, both in the book and as a character. It was in the writing of that first chapter that her voice, her worldview, and her history became cemented for me.
A Map of Home--the title suggests many ...
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