Morroccan-born novelist Laila Lalami to speak at Brady Author’s Symposium

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 5, 2017

Catawba College News Service

Gifted storyteller and Moroccan-born novelist, Laila Lalami will deliver the keynote address at Catawba College’s 31st annual Brady Author’s Symposium on Thursday, March 23. The event is scheduled in the Robertson College-Community Center on Catawba College’s campus.

Tickets for the lecture, a seated luncheon, book signing and question and answer session are now on sale online at or by contacting Catawba’s Public Relations Office at 704-637-4393.

Lalami, a novelist, short story writer and essayist, offers a unique and confident voice in conversations about race and immigration. A regular contributor to publications including The Nation, Newsweek and Los Angeles Times, she weighs in on contemporary issues in the Arab world and North Africa. She pens a monthly column for The Nation, and has also built a strong following online through her widely-read literary blog “MoorishGirl.”

Lalami’s most recent novel, “The Moor’s Account,” is historical fiction. It imagines the life of one of the first African Muslim slaves in the New World as he accompanies Spanish conquistadores in their explorations and encounters with Native Americans in uncharted Florida. This novel was a 2015 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

The Los Angeles Times described Lalami’s novel: “Narrated by a Muslim slave on the expedition, ‘The Moor’s Account’ offers a pungent alternative history that muses on the ambiguous power of words to either tell the truth or reshape it according to our desires.”

The Wall Street Journal, which cited this novel as one of its Best Books of 2014, asserted: “A belief in the power and magic of tale-spinning is central to ‘The Moor’s Account.’ ”

Lalami is the author of several other works, including, “Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits,” a collection of short stories about a group of immigrants attempting to escape Morocco for a better life in Europe. It was inspired by a brief article from a French newspaper’s website about 15 Moroccan would-be-immigrants who drowned crossing the Straits of Gibraltar trying to get to Spain and its promise of opportunity.

Her second novel, “Secret Son,” revisits questions of identity and class. Its main character is a shy, bookish young man living in a slum in Casablanca who discovers that his father is a wealthy businessman. This work, which depicts contemporary Moroccan life and the social, political, religious and poverty issues facing its citizens, was long-listed for the Orange Prize.

A graduate of Universite’ Mohammad-V in Rabat, she also attended University College in London and the University of Southern California, where she earned a Ph.D. in linguistics. She has received a Fulbright Fellowship, a British Council Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. She teaches creative writing at the University of California at Riverside.

Lalami will be the latest in a group of impressive authors who have spoken at previous Brady Author’s Symposia, including Reynolds Price, Josephine Humphreys, Anne Rivers Siddons, Dannye Romine Powell, Betty Adcock, Angela Davis-Gardner, Doris Betts, Lee Smith, Kay Gibbons, Fred Chappell, Robert Inman, Jan Karon, John Berendt, Pat Conroy, Terry Kay, Gail Godwin, Ann Hood, Tim McLaurin, Frances Mayes, Rick Bragg, Susan Vreeland, Jodi Picoult, Gish Jen, Joanne Harris, Chris Bohjalian, Elizabeth Berg, Colum McCann, Jane Hamilton, Sena Jeter Naslund, Meg Wolitzer, John Hart and Jane Smiley.

Tickets for the symposium can be ordered online at or through the Catawba College Public Relations Office at 704-637-4393 via contacts Tonia Black-Gold or Maegen Worley. Symposium events include an 11 a.m. lecture ($20), a catered, seated luncheon ($20), book signing (free), and an exclusive writing question and answer session ($10).

Schedule of events

11 a.m.
Hedrick Little Theatre, Robertson College-Community Center

Seated Luncheon*
12:15 p.m.
Peeler Crystal Lounge
*Luncheon reservations are limited and will be taken in the order in which they are received.

Book Signing
1:15 p.m.
Lobby of Keppel Auditorium, Robertson College-Community Center

Question and Answer
2 p.m.
Hedrick Theatre, Robertson College-Community Center