Laila Lalami

Laila Lalami (Arabic: ليلى العلمي‎, born 1968) is a Moroccan-American novelist and essayist. After earning her first degree in Morocco, she received a fellowship to study in the United Kingdom (UK), where she earned an MA in linguistics.

In 1992 Lalami moved to the United States, where she completed a PhD in linguistics at the University of Southern California. She began publishing her writing in 1996. Her first novel, composed of linked stories, was published in 2005. In 2015 she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for her 2014 novel The Moor's Account, which received strong critical praise and won several other awards.

Laila Lalami
Lalami Author Photo
Lalami Author Photo
Rabat, Morocco
OccupationNovelist, professor
NationalityMorocco, United States
Alma materMohammed V University
University College London
University of Southern California
Notable worksThe Moor's Account (2014), Secret Son (2009), Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits (2005)

Early life and education

Lalami was born and raised in Rabat, Morocco. According to Lalami, all the early children's books and literature she read were published in French, which was the official language for decades, and she began to write her own stories in French. Educated in her early years at a French Catholic school, she did not start to study classical Arabic until the age of fourteen at a public junior high school. She wrote mostly in French in her creative work into her early twenties. While her parents both read widely in a variety of genres and encouraged her writing, Lalami has said that they thought she needed to study a profession other than writing.[1]

Lalam earned her BA in English from Mohammed V University in Rabat. In 1990, she received a British Council fellowship to study in England and completed an MA in Linguistics at University College London. After graduating, she returned to Morocco and worked briefly as a journalist and commentator.[1]

In 1992 she moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California, from which she graduated with a PhD in Linguistics. She had chosen the field of linguistics in order to be involved with the study of language, even in analysis. Her experiences and studies caused her to reflect on the uses of French and Arabic in Morocco. She was influenced by the work of Edward Said, and became aware of the code switching followed by her and her family, and most native Moroccans, in their transitions between the two. Writing professionally in English gave her another perspective.[1]


Lalami began writing fiction and nonfiction in English in 1996.[2] Her literary criticism, cultural commentary, and opinion pieces have appeared in The Boston Globe, Boston Review, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, and elsewhere. In 2016, she was named both a columnist for The Nation[3] magazine and a critic-at-large for The Los Angeles Times Book Review.[4]

Her first book, described as a novel or collection of short stories, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, was published in 2005. It follows four Moroccan immigrants who try to cross the Straits of Gibraltar on a lifeboat, which capsizes offshore. The book has an unusual narrative structure: the opening story takes place while the main characters are making the crossing; the next four stories flash back to the characters' lives before their fateful journey; and the final four stories flash forward, so that the reader learns the fates of the four.[5] Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits received wide critical acclaim. In the Washington Post, Carolyn See described it as "a bracing and beautiful little novel."[6] Pankaj Mishra, writing in the New York Review of Books, noted that "Lalami writes about her home country without the expatriate's self-indulgent and often condescending nostalgia."[7]

Lalami's second book, the novel Secret Son (2009), is a coming-of-age story set in the slums of Casablanca. A young college student named Youssef El Mekki discovers that his father—whom he'd been led to believe was a high school teacher, and dead for many years—is in fact a businessman and lives across town. But Youssef's burgeoning relationship with his father, and his sudden change in fortune, are threatened by social and political unrest in the city. The novel explores themes of identity and class in a world increasingly divided by political ideology.[8] Secret Son was longlisted for the Orange Prize.[9]

The Moor's Account, Lalami's third book, was published by Pantheon Books in September 2014. The novel is told from the perspective of Estevanico, a Moroccan slave who is documented as part of the ill-fated Narváez expedition of 1527 and was one of four survivors to reach Mexico City in 1536. He later led expeditions as the first black explorer of America.[10] The Moor's Account won the American Book Award, [11] the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award,[12] and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.[13]

Lalami has received an Oregon Literary Arts grant, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.[14] She was selected in 2009 by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader.[15]

She is a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside.[16]


For The Moor's Account

Other honors

For Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits


  • Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits (Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, NC, 2005. ISBN 1-56512-493-6)
  • Secret Son (Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, NC, 2009. ISBN 1-56512-494-4)
  • The Moor's Account (Pantheon Books, New York, NY, 2014. ISBN 978-0307911667)
  • The Other Americans (Pantheon Books, New York, NY, 2019. ISBN 9781524747145)
Short stories
  • "How I Became My Mother's Daughter". Callaloo. 32 (4): 1120–1122. 2009. doi:10.1353/cal.0.0572 – via Project MUSE.


  1. ^ a b c Laila Lalami, "So to Speak" (essay), World Literature Today website, September 2009
  2. ^ Interview, Writers & Books, 2008.
  3. ^ "‘The Nation’ Names Laila Lalami ‘Between the Lines’ Monthly Columnist"The Nation
  4. ^ Introducing the L.A. Times Critics-at-Large Los Angeles Times
  5. ^ "Stories carry readers to the edge". Seattle Times. December 30, 2005.
  6. ^ "Leaving Morocco". The Washington Post. October 28, 2005.
  7. ^ "Muslims in the Dark". The New York Review of Books. April 12, 2007.
  8. ^ Thorne, John. "Profile: Lalani Lalami", The National
  9. ^ "Levy, Mantel battle 7 debut novels for Orange prize", Reuters, 17 March 2010
  10. ^ Review, Los Angeles Times
  11. ^ American Book Awards press release American Book Awards, Before Columbus Foundation.
  12. ^ 2015 Hurston Wright Legacy Awards, The Washington Post
  13. ^ Pulitzer Citation, The Pulitzer Prizes
  14. ^ Guggenheim Foundation Guggenheim Foundation press release
  15. ^ Press Release Archived 2009-02-26 at the Wayback Machine YGL Honorees 2009.
  16. ^ UCR UCR Creative Writing
  17. ^ Pulitzer Citation The Pulitzer Prizes
  18. ^ Man Booker Prize announces 2015 longlist | The Man Booker Prizes Archived 2015-08-10 at the Wayback Machine Man Booker Prize Longlist 2015. 29 July 2015
  19. ^ American Book Awards press release American Book Awards.
  20. ^ Arab American Book Award Winners Arab American Book Awards.
  21. ^ 2015 Hurston Wright Legacy Awards The Washington Post
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-06-30. Retrieved 2012-06-16.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ The Wall Street Journal Best Books, The Wall Street Journal
  24. ^ NPR NPR
  25. ^ The New York Times The New York Times
  26. ^ Kirkus Reviews Kirkus Reviews
  27. ^ Guggenheim Foundation Guggenheim Foundation press release
  28. ^ Hedgebrook Hedgbrook News
  29. ^ Lannan Lannan Residency

External links

2015 Man Booker Prize

The 2015 Booker Prize for Fiction was awarded at a ceremony on 13 October 2015. A longlist of thirteen titles was announced on 29 July, narrowed down to a shortlist of six titles on 15 September.

Driss Temsamani

Driss R. Temsamani (Arabic: إدريس التمسماني‎; born 1966) is a Moroccan American author, community organizer, and Head of Marketing & Strategic Planning for Citigroup Latin America and the Caribbean.


Estevanico (c. 1500–1539) ("Little Esteban") was one of the first native Africans to reach the present-day continental United States. He is known as Esteban de Dorantes, Estebanico, and Esteban the Moor, or Mustafa Azemmouri. Enslaved as a youth by the ruling Portuguese, he was sold to a Spanish nobleman and taken in 1527 on the Spanish Narváez expedition to establish a colony in Florida. He was one of four survivors among 300 men who explored the peninsula. By late 1528 the group had been reduced to 80 men, who survived being washed ashore at Galveston Island after an effort to sail homemade crafts across the Gulf of Mexico.

For eight years, he traveled with Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, and Alonso del Castillo Maldonado across northern New Spain (present-day U.S. Southwest and northern Mexico). They finally reached Spanish forces in Mexico City in 1536.

Later Estevanico served as the main guide for a return expedition to the Southwest. Spaniards believe that he was killed in the Zuni city of Hawikuh in 1539. That is speculative, as the two Indians who reported back to Friar Marcos de Niza did not see him killed but only assumed he had been killed. Estevanico was the first non-Native to visit Pueblo lands.

Farafina Magazine

Farafina Magazine was a bimonthly publication providing a high-quality medium for people worldwide to freely express their world view. A general-interest African magazine written in simple uncluttered prose and illustrated with humorous drawings and photographs, the magazine received strong commendations from people from different walks of life.

Farafina started in 2004 as an online magazine published by Kachifo Limited. From October 2005, it was produced as a print magazine until publication was suspended, after 16 issues, in September 2009, with plans to revive the magazine as a non-profit venture of Farafina Trust.The magazine has been guest-edited by Olajide Bello, Okey Ndibe, Molara Wood, Toni Kan, Uzodinma Iweala, Petina Gappah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Laila Lalami.

It has featured the works of Wole Soyinka, Segun Afolabi, Uche James Iroha, Funmi Iyanda, Dinaw Mengestu, Barbara Murray, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jackee Budesta Batanda, Helon Habila, Tosin Oshinowo, Patrice Nganang, Jide Alakija, and a plethora of other writers and graphical artists.

When publication was suspended in September 2009, the foremost reason given was the "financial unsustainability of the magazine, exacerbated by the prevailing economic climate".

Hiding in Plain Sight

Hiding in Plain Sight is a 2014 novel by Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah. The novel follows the experience of Bella in the wake of a terrorist attack that kills her brother, Aar, a Kenyan UN worker in Mogadishu. After the death, Bella returns to Nairobi to help care for her brother's family. The ensuing conflict between Bella and her brother's widow becomes a central element of the novel. Hiding in Plain Sight is Farah's twelfth novel.

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits (2005) is the debut book by Moroccan-American author Laila Lalami. It has been described as a novel, and as a linked series of short stories or fictional portraits. First published in the United States, the connected stories explore the extensive immigration from North Africa to Europe through the lives of four Moroccan characters: two men and two women.


Lamalif was a monthly French political and cultural magazine published in Morocco between 1966 and 1988.

List of Moroccan women writers

This is a list of women writers who were born in Morocco or whose writings are closely associated with that country.

List of essayists

This is a list of essayists—people notable for their essay-writing.

Note: Birthplaces (as listed) do not always indicate nationality.


A litblog (alternate: lit-blog or literary blog) is a blog that focuses primarily on the topic of literature. There is a community of litblogs in the blogosphere whose authors cover a variety of literary topics. An author of a litblog is called a 'Litblogger' and they write about fiction, nonfiction, poetry, the publishing industry, literary journals, literary criticism, and more. They may focus on special genres of literature, including science fiction and mystery. Some litbloggers prefer an objective or formal tone, while others are more conversational.

Many litblogs feature reviews of books which may or may not be featured in the mainstream press. Some litblogs feature critiques of reviews in the mainstream press. Interviews with authors are another common feature. Litblogs can also be used as virtual reading groups for focused discussion on a specific piece or pieces of literature, with some litblogs following a particular piece of literature through an entire reading, and others reprinting diaries or letters from authors. Some litblogs are resources for information about the publishing industry, publicity, or writing craft.

Many litblogs have one author, but collaborative blogs have many authors, one of whom may serve as the primary author overseeing contributors. There are also collaborative blogs focussing on significant international or national literary awards such as Read the Nobels and The Complete Booker where contributors share reviews of winning and shortlisted titles, information about award-winning authors or the history of the award. These are sometimes associated with so-called 'reading challenges' but they can become a useful repository of commentary about award winners and their books over time, especially in the case of less well-known authors.

Other collaborative blogs include those focusing on the work of a single notable author such as La Comedie Humaine where members share their summaries and reviews as well as information about the French author, Honoré de Balzac.


Loggernaut Reading Series is a reading series in Portland, Oregon founded in 2005. Each reading features three readers and a prompt to which they respond. It is currently curated by Jesse Lichtenstein, Erin Ergenbright, and Pauls Toutonghi.

Past readers include Charles D'Ambrosio, Laila Lalami, Peter Rock, Justin Tussing, Tom Spanbauer, Tom Bissell, Carrie Brownstein, Paul Collins, Daniel Mason, Joshua Beckman, Joyelle McSweeney, and Jonathan Raymond.

The series also publishes an online literary magazine with the same name. Its in-depth interviews with authors in various genres have included Paula Fox, Sam Lipsyte, Alice Notley, Jonathan Raban, David Means, Karen Tei Yamashita, James Longenbach, David Shields, Kimiko Hahn, and Pankaj Mishra.

Mohammed V University

Mohammed V University (Arabic: جامعة محمد الخامس‎), in Rabat, Morocco, was founded in 1957 under a royal decree (Dahir). It is the first modern university in Morocco after the University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez.

The university is named for Mohammed V, the former King of Morocco who died in 1961. In 1993, it was divided into two independent universities:

Mohammed V University at Agdal

Mohammed V University at SouissiIn 2015 the two universities merged into one, known as Mohammed V University, but maintaining the two campuses.

Moroccan literature

Moroccan literature is literature written in Arabic, Hebrew, French, Amazigh languages, or Spanish, particularly by people of Morocco, but also of Al-Andalus.

Secret Son

Secret Son is the 2009 novel by Moroccan-American writer Laila Lalami. The novel is a bildungsroman that follows its main character, a Muslim youth named Youssef El Mekki, as he comes of age in the Casablanca slums.Like other Arab-American novels, it focuses on themes related to class, gender, religion, migration/immigration and cultural conflict, with a particular emphasis on the cultural conflict that leads to radicalization of terrorists. Critic Steven Salaita compared the novel to Anouar Majid's Si Yussef. Lalami choose to write the novel in her third language: English, choosing not to use her first two languages: French and Arabic.The New York Times gave the novel a moderately good review saying that "Secret Son is a nuanced depiction of the roots of Islamic terrorism, written by someone who intimately knows one of the stratified societies where it grows" but "Her English prose, although clean and closely observed, lacks music, and her similes can be predictable".

Start Making Sense (podcast)

Start Making Sense is an American weekly left-of-center podcast with a focus on contemporary issues and politics. It is hosted by The Nation magazine's contributing editor Jon Wiener and describes itself as "political talk without the boring parts." It features writers and activists and journalists and artists such as Laila Lalami, Amy Wilentz, Charles Blow, Barbara Ehrenreich, Ben Ehrenreich, Chris Hayes, Naomi Klein, Jane Mayer, and Rick Perlstein. Topics discussed include the American presidential election, climate change, racism, parenthood, party politics, and reviews of books and films.

The Arab of the Future

The Arab of the Future (French: L'Arabe du futur) is a graphic memoir by award-winning French-Syrian cartoonist Riad Sattouf. The work recounts Sattouf's childhood growing up in France, Libya and Syria in the 1970s and 80s. The first volume of L'Arabe du futur won the 2015 Fauve d’Or prize for best graphic novel at the Angoulême International Comics Festival.Sattouf’s father influenced the name of the book through his ideal of raising his son as an Arab of the future. Early in the story, the elder Sattouf proclaims, "I'd change everything among the Arabs. I'd force them to stop being bigots, to educate themselves, and to enter into the modern world. I'd be a good President."

Purposefully written from the perspective of a child, Sattouf employs simplistic yet comprehensive drawings that are more rudimentary than, yet not entirely dissimilar to, his other works such as “La Vie Secrète des Jeunes”, his column in the famous satirical French magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Both The Arab of the Future and La Vie Secrète des Jeunes are written from Sattouf’s point of view, with the former describing his childhood and the latter his daily observations as an adult. Although both appear autobiographical, at least one reviewer calls into question elements of Sattouf's life story and family history.

The Meursault Investigation

The Meursault Investigation (French: Meursault, contre-enquête) is the first novel by Algerian writer and journalist Kamel Daoud. It is a retelling of Albert Camus's 1942 novel, The Stranger. First published in Algeria by Barzakh Editions in October 2013, it was reissued in France by Actes Sud (May 2014). Its publication in France was followed by nominations for many prizes and awards.

The Moor's Account

The Moor's Account is a novel by Laila Lalami. It was a

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist in 2015.The Moor's Account is a fictional memoir of Estevanico, the Moroccan slave who survived the Narvaez expedition and accompanied Cabeza de Vaca. He is widely considered to be the first black explorer of America, but little is known about his early life except for one line in Cabeza de Vaca's chronicle: "The fourth [survivor] is Estevanico, an Arab Negro from Azamor."

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