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Distinguished Visiting Writer 2019
Omar El Akkad was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up in Doha, Qatar before moving to Canada with his family. An award-winning journalist and author, El Akkad has traveled around the world to cover many of the most important news stories of the last decade. His reporting includes dispatches from the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, the military trials in Guantanamo Bay, the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt, and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri. El Akkad is a recipient of Canada’s National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting and the Goff Penny Memorial Prize for Young Canadian Journalists, as well as three National Magazine Award honorable mentions. His critically acclaimed debut American War, published in 2017, is a post-apocalyptic novel set during the second American Civil War in the year 2074. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Miller, Laura. “American War” The Guardian, October 4, 2017.
El Akkad, a Canadian journalist born in Egypt and raised in Qatar, has said that his intention with American War is not to make the reader admire Sarat. Rather, “in this incredibly polarised world we live in”, he hopes that by the time the reader gets to the end of his novel, “you’re not on her side, you don’t support her, you’re not willing to apologize for her – but you understand how she got to the place where she is”.
Onyebuchi, Tochi. “Nothing Foreign About It: Talking With Omar El Akkad” The Rumpus, October 11, 2017.
It’s a conceit that would, in the hands of a lesser writer, collapse under the weight of extrapolation. But El Akkad, in his stunning and merciless debut, uses the Chestnut Family, Southern-born and tragedy-bound, as a prism through which to tell the dystopian story of America’s future. With domestic drone strikes, refugee camps, suicide bombings (in a rather shocking appropriation of the language of martyrdom), and a Guantanamo prison housing American-born Christians, El Akkad puts to use a career as a journalist to meticulously construct a future that feels both hellish and imminent. Over there becomes here.
Lea, Richard and Cain, Sian “Maria Alyokhina and Omar El Akkad-Books Podcast” The Guardian, October 10, 2017.
El Akkad’s debut novel, American War, draws on his experiences reporting on Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay and the Arab Spring, imagining a second American civil war in the latter half of the 21st century.