Writer Malu Halasa Returns Home to Northeast Ohio
Malu Halasa was born in the United States and grew up in Akron, the daughter of a Jordanian father and a Filipino mother.
Today she's an acclaimed writer focusing on arts and culture issues in the Middle East. Halasa's back home in Northeast Ohio for the holidays and she's brought with her a debut novel - Mother of All Pigs.
Halasa has fond memories of growing up in Akron, especially of her high school English teacher Elizabeth Frazier, the mother of New Yorker writer Ian Frazier.
"She was very influential in terms of getting me to do creative work. I think that poetry of my early years has been the basis of all the writing I've done since," Halasa said.
The story of her debut novel centers on a modern-day Jordanian family living in a small border town where the conflict in nearby Syria looms large.
She hopes the book shows off different facets of the middle east than those portrayed by much of the media.
"I wanted to show or explore those things that have meant so much to me - the rich culture, the origins of religion, how women are able to buck up against a patriarchy and actually change it," Halasa said.
Halasa also wanted to portray the dark humor that arises in dangerous times.
"When we think of the Middle East we think of harrowing, awful events. We don't really think of the middle east as a funny place. But it is a very funny place," Halasa said.
In war time that dark humor becomes even more pronounced.
"People need to find a way to deal with the violence. They can't always be thinking of themselves as victims," Halasa said.
Listen to the entire interview: