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Jordan Elgrably

May 9 @ 7:00 pm

Jordan Elgrably in conversation with Sarah AlKahly-Mills

City Lights celebrates the publication of

Stories from the Center of the World: New Middle East Fiction

Edited by Jordan Elgrably

published by City Lights Books

“Provocative and subtle, nuanced and surprising, these stories demonstrate how this complicated and rich region might best be approached–through the power of literature.” –Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Committed

Short stories from 25 emerging and established writers of Middle Eastern and North African origins, a unique collection of voices and viewpoints that illuminate life in the global Arab/Muslim world.

Stories from the Center of the World gathers new writing from the greater Middle East (or SWANA), a vast region that stretches from Southwest Asia, through the Middle East and Turkey, and across Northern Africa. The 25 authors included here come from a wide range of cultures and countries, including Palestine, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, and Morocco, to name some.

In “Asha and Haaji,” Hanif Kureishi takes up the cause of outsiders who become uprooted when war or disaster strikes and they flee for safe haven. In Nektaria Anastasiadou‘s “The Location of the Soul According to Benyamin Alhadeff,” two students in Istanbul from different classes — and religions that have often been at odds with one another — believe they can overcome all obstacles. MK Harb‘s story, “Counter Strike,” is about queer love among Beiruti adolescents; and Salar Abdoh‘s “The Long Walk of the Martyrs” invites us into the world of former militants, fighters who fought ISIS or Daesh in Iraq and Syria, who are having a hard time readjusting to civilian life. In “Eleazar,” Karim Kattan tells an unexpected Palestinian story in which the usual antagonists — Israeli occupation forces — are mostly absent, while another malevolent force seems to overtake an unsuspecting family. Omar El Akkad‘s “The Icarist” is a coming-of-age story about the underworld in which illegal immigrants are forced to live, and what happens when one dares to break away.

Contributors include: Salar Abdoh, Leila Aboulela, Farah Ahamed, Omar El Akkad, Sarah AlKahly-Mills, Nektaria Anastasiadou, Amany Kamal Eldin, Jordan Elgrably, Omar Foda, May Haddad, Daniel Haghihi, Malu Halasa, MK Harb, Alireza Iranmehr, Karim Kattan, Hanif Kureishi, Ahmed Salah Al-Mahdi, Diary Marif, Tariq Mehmood, Sahar Mustafah, Mohammed Al-Naas, Ahmed Naji, Mai Al-Nakib, Abdellah Taia, and Natasha Tynes

Jordan Elgrably is a Franco-American and Moroccan writer and translator, whose stories and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous anthologies and reviews, including Apulée, Salmagundi, and The Paris Review. Editor-in-chief and founder of The Markaz Review, he is the cofounder and former director of the Levantine Cultural Center/The Markaz in Los Angeles (2001-2020), and producer of the stand-up comedy show “The Sultans of Satire” (2005-2017) and hundreds of other public programs. He is based in Montpellier, France and California.

Sarah AlKahly-Mills is a Lebanese-American writer. Her story “The Salamander” is included in the new book Stories from the Center of the World: New Middle East Fiction, edited by Jordan Elgrably, and just published by City Lights. Her fiction, poetry, book reviews, and essays have appeared in publications including Litro MagazineInk and Oil, the Los Angeles Review of BooksMichigan Quarterly ReviewPopMattersAl-Fanar MediaMiddle East Eye, and various university journals. Born in Burbank, CA, she now lives in Rome, Italy.

What has been said about Stories from the Center of the World

“A truly ambitious mix of established and emerging literary stars from a region of the world too often viewed through the lens of religion and politics. The stories collected by Elgrably reflect almost every corner of the mosaic that is the modern Middle East, giving practically everyone a voice and serving as a reminder of our common humanity. A timely and necessary collection for anyone who loves good stories.” –Reza Aslan, author of An American Martyr in Persia

“This volume is loaded with two dozen stories of exile, love, and magical realism. The characters that populate them are a patchwork of ethnic identities, as it is the case in the ‘center of the world’. What is impressive about this collection is how culturally informed and varied it is. . . . I highly recommend that readers of this rich anthology take time to rinse their palate between each story.” –Zein El-Amine, author of Is This How You Eat a Watermelon?

Made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation


May 9
7:00 pm


City Lights Bookstore
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City Lights
261 Columbus Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94133 United States
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