Randa Jarrar on Writing and ‘the Fatties, the Cast-offs, the Queers, the Dirty Kids, the Ones History Doesn’t Love

I have not read Jarrar’s (critically acclaimed) Map of Home. And I admit I was irritated by a piece Jarrar wrote about her father and (the great) Tawfiq al-Hakim, wherein she dismissed al-Hakim and all his female characters as “lacking agency. ” (What! Priska, lacking all agency?)

But I did enjoy her relaxed interview with Sousan Hammad, on the Beirut39 site. Jarrar talks about the Arab-American authors she likes (“Suheir Hammad, Hayan Charara, Mohja Kahf, Kevin Rashid, even Alicia Erian”) and the fact that she’s looking forward to the food in Beirut.

She also talks about one of the joys of writing fiction—re-creating the world:

I read a news story about a child whose home was destroyed by an Israeli air raid. His father was out of the building and later identified his child in the rubble by his belt. Originally, this story was going to be about that. But as I wrote it, I grew to love the child. I didn’t want to kill him the way the Israeli army had. I wanted him to live. That’s actually what I love about literature- how the submerged of the world can finally get their say. I love to write about the disenfranchised, the fatties, the cast-offs, the queers, the dirty kids, the ones history doesn’t love.

Much more about Jarrar on her website.