Hala Alyan: Which Comes First—the Characters or the Politics?
This Week on the Reading Women Podcast
On this episode of Reading Women, Kendra talks with Hala Alyan, author of The Arsonists’ City, which is out now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
From the episode:
Hala Alyan: I’ve been asked the question of, did you use the characters to tell the story of politics? Or did you use the politics to tell the story of the characters and their lives? It’s kind of irretrievably linked; there’s no way to really separate it, in my opinion. I think these characters simply would not be who they were if the history hadn’t played out that way, so there’s no way to tell the story without taking into account the history. To speak of a woman in Damascus in the 70s and men in Beirut in the 70s is to speak of the war after 75. There’s no way to not include that, and vice versa. To tell the story of these particular people in this particular time, it was unavoidable. They felt incredibly linked to me.
Hala Alyan is the author of the novel Salt Houses, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab American Book Award and a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize, as well as the forthcoming novel The Arsonists’ City and four award-winning collections of poetry, most recently The Twenty-Ninth Year. Her work has been published by TheNew Yorker, the Academy of American Poets, LitHub, the New York Times Book Review, and Guernica. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, where she works as a clinical psychologist.