Omar El Akkad, Author of What Strange Paradise
Wednesday, December 1, 7pm
Hosted on Zoom
* Winner of the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada's preeminent literary award *
Join us as we welcome author Omar El Akkad to the Wilmette community to discuss his new book, What Strange Paradise. Mr. El Akkad will be joining us virtually in conversation with Northwestern University professor emeritus Jack Doppelt. A Q&A will follow their discussion.
This event will be hosted on Zoom. The event is free and open to the public, though registration is required.
About the Book
More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another overfilled, ill-equipped, dilapidated ship has sunk under the weight of its too many passengers: Syrians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives back in their homelands. But miraculously, someone has survived the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy. Amir is soon rescued by Vänna, a teenage girl, who, despite being native to the island, experiences her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though Vänna and Amir are complete strangers, though they don’t speak a common language, Vänna is determined to do whatever it takes to save the boy.
In alternating chapters, we learn about Amir’s life and how he came to be on the boat, and we follow him and the girl as they make their way toward safety. What Strange Paradise is the story of two children finding their way through a hostile world. But it is also a story of empathy and indifference, of hope and despair—and about the way each of those things can blind us to reality. (From the publisher)
Praise for What Strange Paradise
“Extraordinary . . . Told from the point of view of two children, on the ground and at sea, the story so astutely unpacks the us-versus-them dynamics of our divided world that it deserves to be an instant classic. I haven’t loved a book this much in a long time.”
—Wendell Steavenson, The New York Times Book Review
“It is one thing to put a human face on a migrant crisis and another to do so in so compelling a way that a reader simply cannot put your book down. I read this in one sitting, my heart pounding the whole way—in a strange paradise, you might say. Marvelous.”
—Gish Jen, author of The Resisters
About the Author
Omar El Akkad is an author and a journalist. He has reported from Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, and many other locations around the world. His work earned Canada’s National Newspaper Award for Investigative Journalism and the Goff Penny Award for young journalists. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, Le Monde, Guernica, GQ, and many other newspapers and magazines. His debut novel, American War, is an international bestseller, award winner, and has been translated into thirteen languages. It was listed as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, GQ, NPR, and Esquire, and was selected by the BBC as one of 100 Novels That Shaped Our World.
Omar El Akkad will be joined in conversation by Jack Doppelt, the Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Emeritus Professor of Journalism at Medill. He is publisher of Immigrant Connect, an online storytelling network for immigrants, their families and communities in and around Chicago and the Doppelt Effect, a blog of writings, commentaries and musings.