Photo © Beowulf Sheehan.
Hala Alyan is an award-winning Palestinian American poet and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in numerous journals including The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner and Colorado Review. She resides in Brooklyn with her husband.
Her poetry collection, Atrium, was awarded the 2013 Arab American Book Award in Poetry, while her latest collection, Hijira, was selected as a winner of the 2015 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry and published by Southern Illinois University Press.
What are you reading? What's on your nightstand?
I’m finally reading “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell (I’ve been meaning to get to it for ages) and “At Night We Walk in Circles” by Daniel Alarcón is up next.
Where do you go to get inspired?
For whatever reason, airports always make me want to write.
What's something that surprised you recently (in a good way)?
Being asked to write a letter of recommendation by a writer I hugely admire.
Where do you write?
Everywhere: my office, on the rug in my living room, subways, in the park.
What/who makes you laugh? Why?
When children curse. I know I shouldn’t laugh, because it’s reinforcing that behavior, but the younger they are, the more I can’t help it.
Favorite fictional character ever?
The Little Prince.
What do you want readers to know about you and your books?
That I love nothing more on this planet than writing a story, even when the process is making me miserable.
What are you working on?
"Verdict: This timely historical does for the Palestinians what Khaled Hosseini did for the people of Afghanistan. By placing readers inside the hearts and minds of one Arab family scattered from Paris to Boston to Lebanon, she beautifully illustrates the resilience of the human spirit."
"Salt Houses illuminates the heartache and permanent unsettledness experienced by refugees all over the world, reminding readers of the burdens and the blessings of home."
—Bustle.com, "15 New Authors You're Going to Be Obsessed With This Year"
"It's not always easy to follow Alyan's complex geographic and emotional mapping, but this journey is well worth taking. A deeply moving look inside the Palestinian diaspora."
"The war may have only lasted six days, but its impact echoes through generations of a Palestinian family in this ambitious debut novel...This is a moving story about a family's battle to salvage what remains when their home is taken away."
"Alyan blends joy with pain, frustration with elation, longing with boredom in this beautiful debut novel filled with the panoply of life. The frontispiece tells the whole story in microcosm with a family tree of the Palestinian Yacoub family, who, for most of the book, no longer lives in Palestine...These lives full of promise and loss will feel familiar to any reader; Alyan's excellent storytelling and deft handling of the complex relationships ensures that readers will not soon forget the Yacoub family."