Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.
- What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?
My book is called Jinwar and Other Stories, published by Cune Press. It will be released on March 8, 2022, to coincide with International Women’s Day. This is a collection of short stories.
- In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?
The characters in Jinwar and Other Stories celebrate the fragile grandeur of living an independent life in the aftermath of violence. Deeply rooted in place, these stories are about identity, hope, and redemption as fierce and flawed women rebuild their lives in the wake of war. The young women sparking through these pages are surprising, funny, and devastating: the essence of womanhood. Timely and prescient, Jinwar and Other Stories is the collection for a #YesAllWomen world.
- What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?
Literary Fiction; Short Stories, Women’s Fiction, World Literature, Middle East Literature
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
Drue Heinz award-winning author Kate Wisel said, “This is one hyper-astute, deadly funny, entirely consequential collection.”
- What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]
If my short story collection were a painting, it would be a mural by Diego Rivera because the collection slants a satirical, sly eye on difficult, social justice realities. The stories hang together to paint a picture of what life is like for a daisy chain of women living in the Middle East. I create from research; working from real events, so in that respect, the collection is like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The collection is varied, so individual stories are comparable to specific works of fiction. For example, the title novella “Jinwar” is comparable to War Porn. “Road Trip in War Time” is comparable to The Vanishing Half. “Ras Al-Amud” is similar to Girl at War.
- Why this book? Why now?
I write fiction to reflect the world in which we live, with the hope of spurring the conversations necessary to promote social change. Our world is still desperately unequal due to patriarchy and is overtly violent due to imperial misadventures. The voices of the women in these stories ring out, revealing the hypocrisy of those still in power, and underscoring the importance of women having autonomy over their bodies and their lives. I want my writing to show the beauty in the ugly of living, the moments of triumph and resilience within despair.
- Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
I really enjoyed my life as an actor in New York, and after, my time abroad, teaching and volunteering in the humanitarian aid sector. I am very blessed to have taught in post-conflict zones such as the West Bank and northern Iraq, and to have trained teachers for the Ministry of Higher Education in Baghdad and for the US Department of State in Panama. These experiences helped me understand privilege, hegemonic legacy, and the myth of American exceptionalism.
- What do you want readers to take away from the book?
Because I fictionalize from research or lived experience, most of the events in the collection have happened to real people. I hope to humanize a world that many readers know only from commercial news clips and movies. I hope the reader sees that under utter desolation, laughter is possible, and there is the possibility of redemption.
- What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
In the section of “Jinwar” when the narrator, a survivor of rape in the military, is working in a hotdog truck shaped like a penis during the Kavanaugh hearings, I had a lot of fun describing all the disgusting details of food cart service. I can’t eat hotdogs now because the narrator observes cockroaches swarming in meat casings, tied off in the shape of a cat’s butthole.
- What book(s) are you reading currently?
I am currently reading Wayward, A Little Devil in America, The Dispossessed, and Ordinary Girls. I have just finished Great Circle, whose characters have stuck with me.
Learn more about Alex on her website.
Follow her on LinkedIn.
Register for her virtual book launch hosted by Women & Children First Bookstore on Wednesday, March 9 at 7 pm CT.