Debut, Virtual DC Arab Literature Festival Opening May 17

The first-ever “Narrating the Middle East: DC Arab Literature Festival” is set to open May 17 and 18 with a series of events accessible to those online around the world. The events are co-hosted by the Middle East Institute’s Arts and Culture Center and the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation, with the the Cheuse Center for International Writers at George Mason University.

The two-day virtual literary festival — which features novelists, poets, translators, publishers, agents, and critics — will open with a keynote Rabih Alameddine. The festival, according to organizers, aims to shine “a light on writers and poets and the institutions and infrastructures supporting literary production in and about the Arab world.”

Those interested can register online.

Times below are EST.

May 17

10:10 am – 10:40 am

Introduction and Opening Keynote Remarks

Rabih Alameddine

Lebanon-US. Winner of the 2022 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for The Wrong End of the Telescope (2021)

10:45 am – 12:00 pm

Arab Fiction Now & the Challenges of Writing in and about the Region

Ahmed Naji, Egypt, Author, Using Life (2017); Zaina Arafat, Palestine-US, Author, You Exist Too Much (2021 Lambda Literary Award); Rasha Abbas, Syria-Germany, Author, The Gist of It (2019), and Matthew Davis (moderator).

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm

Modern Poetry in the Arab World

Nujoom al Ghannem, UAE, Author, Asqoto fi Nafsi (I Fall into Myself) (2012); Zeina Hashem Beck, Lebanon, Author, Poem Beginning & Ending with My Birth (2020); Dunya Mikhail, Iraq-US, Author, In Her Feminine Sign (2019); Nathalie Handal (moderator).

May 18

10:00am – 11:30 am

Growing a Literary Landscape

Lynn Gaspard , Publisher, Middle-East specialist press Saqi Books, London; Kareem James Abu Zeid, Translator, editor, and writer, The Poetics of Adonis and Yves Bonnefoy: Poetry as Spiritual Practice (2021); Isobelle Abulhol, Trustee, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF); trustee, the Emirates Literature Foundation; founding director, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature; Chris Merrill, Director, the International Writing Program, University of Iowa; Lisette Jaquette (moderator).

12:00 pm – 1:15 pm

Promoting Contemporary Arab Literature

Yasmina Jraisati. Founder, RAYA | agency for Arabic literature; Susan Harris, Editorial director, Words Without Borders; Marcia Lynx Qualey, Editor, translator, and critic; founder, ArabLit website; co-host, BULAQ podcast; Lana Barkawi, Executive and Artistic Director of Mizna, a nonprofit platform for contemporary literature, film, art, and cultural production centering the work of Southwest Asian and North African creatives. She also publishes the award-winning journal, Mizna: SWANA Lit + Art; Ursula Lindsey (moderator).

4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Closing Hybrid Event: Poetry Reading and Reception

An in-person (by invitation only) and live streamed event held at the Middle East Institute, featuring poetry reading by Zeina Azzam, Palestinian-American poet, writer, editor, and community activist. Poet Laureate of the City of Alexandria, Virginia