2022 DC Arab Literature Festival, May 17-18, 2022

About the Festival

The Middle East Institute’s Arts and Culture Center and The Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation in partnership with the Cheuse Center for International Writers at George Mason University presented a two-day, virtual literature festival featuring writers and poets from the Middle East. Panels explored the works and experiences of leading and emerging Arab authors and poets and the challenges of publishing and translating works from the Middle East.

Featured Speaker: Rabih Alameddine

Rabih Alameddine is the author of six critically acclaimed novels, most recently The Wrong End of the Telescope (Grove Atlantic, 2021), which won the prestigious 2022 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, The Angel of History (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2016), An Unnecessary Woman (Grove Press, 2014), a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, the winner of the California Book Award, and a Washington Post, Kirkus, and NPR Best Book of 2014, The Hakawati (Knopf, 2008), I, The Divine (W.W. Norton, 2001), and Koolaids (Picador, 1998). He is also the author of a book of short stories,The Perv (Picador, 1999.) Alameddine received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002.

Day 1 Agenda

May 17, 2022

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Introduction and Opening Keynote Remarks

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Rabih Alameddine Lebanon-US, Winner of the 2022 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, The Wrong End of the Telescope, 2021. 


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

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This panel of leading regional and diaspora authors discussed the inspiration for their most recent novels and the social, cultural and political context informing their work.  The panel also explored the challenges that Arab writers in the region and its diaspora face as they reflect on societies dealing with globalization, trauma, gender, sexuality and identity.  

Ahmed Naji Egypt, Using Life, 2017

Zaina Arafat US-Palestine, You Exist Too Much, 2021 Lambda Literary Award

Rasha Abbas Syria-Germany, The Gist of It, 2019

Matthew Davis (moderator) Founding director of the Cheuse International Writers Center at George Mason University and Assistant Professor Creative Writing George Mason University. 


Modern Poetry in the Arab World

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This panel featured Arab poets who share their poems in English and the vision that drives their inspiration.

Nujoom al Ghannem UAE, Asqoto fi Nafsi (I Fall into Myself), 2012

Zeina Hashem Beck Lebanon, Author, "O", ( forthcoming in July 2022)

Dunya Mikhail Iraq-US, In Her Feminine Sign, 2019

Nathalie Handal (moderator) Palestine-USA-France, poet, playwright, translator

Day 2 Agenda

May 18, 2022

Growing a Literary Landscape

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This panel brings together voices from the Arab world’s publishing and translation sectors, as well as leading figures behind literary prizes and book fairs, to discuss how to grow the Arab World’s literary infrastructure and audiences. 

Kareem James Abu Zeid Translator ("Exhausted on the Cross" by Najwan Darwish, 2021), editor, and writer

Isobel Abulhol Trustee of The International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation & founding director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

Chris Merrill Director, the International Writing Program, University of Iowa

Lisette Jaquette (moderator) Translator and Executive Director of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA)


Promoting Contemporary Arab Literature

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The panel looked at platforms that have been instrumental in promoting and supporting contemporary writing from and about the Middle East and North Africa and the role they have in opening new and different conversations about the Middle East from the lens of literature.

Yasmina Jraisati Founder, RAYA | agency for Arabic literature

Susan Harris Editorial director, Words Without Borders

Marcia Lynx Qualey Editor, translator, critic and founder, 'ArabLit' website; Winner, 2017 London Book Fair prize. She also publishes ArabLit Quarterly magazine and is co-host of the popular 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) Journalist and book critic, Lindsey writes about culture, education, and politics in the Arab world. She has written for The New York Times, The Economist, The Nation magazine, and the New York Review of Books, among others. She is based in Amman, Jordan.


Closing Hybrid Event: Poetry Reading and Reception

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An in-person (by invitation only) and live streamed event held at the Middle East Institute, featuring poetry reading by Zeina Azzam.

Zeina Azzam Palestinian-American poet, writer, editor, and community activist. She is currently the Poet Laureate of the City of Alexandria, Virginia

Dr. Mariam Gomaa 
Physician and writer. Author of Between the Shadow & the Soul

About our Co-organizer

The Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF) was established in 1996 by Huda I. Alkhamis Kanoo as one of the earliest cultural foundations in the Gulf region and Arab world. ADMAF supports the sustainability and creativity of the cultural industry and contributes to enriching Abu Dhabi as a cultural beacon by offering a wide array of initiatives, including Abu Dhabi Festival and several youth and societal programs and platforms, to support creative talents in the UAE and abroad. Founded in 2004, Abu Dhabi Festival brings audiences together to enjoy unique experiences that testify to our common humanity and the deep bonds we share. The Festival is a celebration and a gathering for exchange amongst the different communities ADMAF serves: the people of the seven emirates of the UAE, the region and the world.

About our Partner

The Cheuse Center for International Writers at George Mason University was founded in 2016 with a two-fold mission: Support and help international writers and translators to gain a broader American audience; and provide young American writers travel fellowships in order to pursue international creative projects. Named in honor of Alan Cheuse, the late American writer and cultural commentator who taught at George Mason for almost 30 years, the Cheuse Center is a vibrant literary institution enriching the artistic and intellectual communities of George Mason University, the metropolitan region of Washington, D.C., and literary organizations around the globe.