The reading is the culmination of MacReads, the community-wide book reading and discussion. "Crescent" is this year's reading selection. It is set in contemporary Los Angeles and focuses on a multi-cultural love story between an Iraqi exile and an Iraqi-American chef. The book was awarded the 2004 PEN Center USA Award for Literary Fiction, the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award and was named one of the 20 best novels of 2003 by The Christian Science Monitor.
Abu-Jaber's first novel, "Arabian Jazz," was considered by many to be the first mainstream Arab-American novel. It won the 1994 Oregon Book Award and was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Her culinary memoir, "The Language of Baklava," chronicles her own experiences growing up in a food-obsessed Arab-American family during the 1970s and 1980s and each chapter is developed around one of her fatherâ€™s traditional Middle Eastern recipes. In her most recent novel, â€œOriginâ€ (set for paperback release on May 5), she creates a â€œmoody thrillerâ€ whose rash of unexplained infant deaths in her childhood hometown of Syracuse, N.Y., explores themes of loss, memory and identity.
Abu-Jaber was born in Syracuse, N.Y., to an American mother and a Jordanian father. When she was seven, her family moved to Jordan for two years, and she has lived between the U.S. and Jordan ever since. Abu-Jaber received her MA from the University of Windsor where she studied with Joyce Carol Oates and later attended SUNY-Binghamton for her Ph.D. She has taught creative writing, film studies and contemporary literature at a number of universities, including the University of Nebraska, the University of Michigan, the University of Oregon, UCLA, Portland State University and the University of Miami.
Her stories, editorials and book, film and food reviews have appeared in literary publications as well as in the popular press, including Ploughshares, the North American Review, Kenyon Review, Story, Good Housekeeping, Ms., Salon, Gourmet, The New York Times, The Nation, Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. She is frequently featured on National Public Radio and recently wrote and produced an hour-long personal documentary for NPR, "The Language of Peace."
Abu-Jaber will visit Linfield as a Renshaw Distinguished Visitor, under the auspices of the Philip Renshaw Endowment for the Liberal Arts. The endowment was established by Renshaw, a Linfield alumnus and former trustee and one of the college's most avid supporters. In addition to the lecture, she will also meet with students and faculty during her visit. The lecture is free and open to the public For more information, call Susan Barnes Whyte, Linfield librarian, 503-883-2517.