Feminist Spotlight: Laila Lalami

lailaLalami is a Moroccan-American creative writer and academic. She was the first Moroccan author to publish on a major US commercial press. I am enthralled and grateful for much of the information on her blog: Moorish Girl, which I have linked to before. She was the one who broke the story that Persepolis was being made into a movie, long before it hit theaters and she often has book reviews up by feminist writers, especially Muslim and international ones, moments after their books go to print. She is a dedicated journalist whose work has appeared in notable places like The Globe, The LA Times and NY Times, The Nation and the Huffington Post. Thus her blog offers a quick, international, journalistic voice about critical issues. Like other feminist bloggers, her blog is part of our/woc writers’ serious political work.

She is also an Oregon Literary Arts Grant and Fulbright recipient and currently teaches at UC Riverside.

Lalami’s book Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits about Moroccan immigrants to Spain has been widely praised. In discussing it, she says it contains both nostalgia for home and also more reflective analysis home because she is working in her second language and having to be “critical” about what she writes. The stories offer a complex understanding of the immigrant experience, showing some success and some heartbreak. They also critique both western and the Moroccan cultures. One particularly controversial story in the collection is about the decisions behind head covering which Lalami refuses to see in the reductive terms it has often be discussed. Instead she claims covering is a complex issue including class, faith, and peer pressure among other things and that she feels that a woman has “a right to do what she wants with her body unless it also infringes on [her] body.” She says the story is about hypocrisy on all sides and not just simply the modernity vs. tradition argument many of her readers think is there.

  • Read her post on terrorism and activism in Morocco here.
  • Read her insightful piece on veiling and the French “Beyond the Veil” here.
  • Read her piece on Anti-Arab imagery in Hollywood (then check it against Iron Man, note it was written over 10 years ago when you do), “Arab Bashing for Fun and Profit” here.

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