Author Teacher Has Varied Reading Tastes Summer reader Laila Lalami is an observer of Islamic issues and current events on her blog, 'Moorishgirl-dot-com." She talks to Liane Hansen about her summer reading list.
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Author Teacher Has Varied Reading Tastes

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Author Teacher Has Varied Reading Tastes

Author Teacher Has Varied Reading Tastes

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Our summer reader this week is Laila Lalami. She's an author and a teacher of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. She's also known for her commentary about Islamic issues and current events on her blog,

Welcome to the program, Laila.

Professor LAILA LALAMI (Author; Assistant Professor, Creative Writing, University of California, Riverside; Blogger,; Thank you for having me.

HANSEN: What are you reading now?

Prof. LALAMI: Right now, I'm reading J.M. Coetzee's "In the Heart of the Country." It's set on a sheep farm in South Africa and it's about a white farmer who starts an affair with his black worker's wife. Now, the farmer's daughter, who narrates the book, feels shamed and slighted, and that sentiment leads her to seek revenge. So it's a dark novel and in a typically Coetzeean(ph) fashion, it's also fair and beautiful and incredibly well-observed.

HANSEN: Hmm. He's a Nobel Prize winner for literature.

Prof. LALAMI: Yeah. Yes, he is.

HANSEN: "In the Heart of the Country." Anything else?

Prof. LALAMI: I also just finished Junot Diaz's "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." This is Diaz's second book, the one that sounds like he had been waiting for more than 10 years.

HANSEN: Why? Tell us a little bit about Junot Diaz.

Prof. LALAMI: Well, his first story collection was called "Drown." And it appeared in 1996. And all of the stories in it as I believe becomes sort of instant classics.

HANSEN: What do you want to read next?

Prof. LALAMI: Next, I'm planning on reading Edwidge Danticat's "Brother, I'm Dying." I'm a fan of Danticat's fictions and this is her first memoir.

HANSEN: She's Haitian and this is a book that will be released in September.

Prof. LALAMI: Yes, I believe so. It's about her relationship with her father, I think. I believe she found out she was pregnant on the same day she learned that her father is dying.

HANSEN: Wow. If you had all the time in the world, Laila, what would you read?

Prof. LALAMI: What a fantasy. I never have time to finish reading my magazines and I'd love to catch up on all my older issues of the New Yorker and Harper's and the Nation and so on, so...

HANSEN: You'd read magazines.

Prof. LALAMI: Yes, I do.

HANSEN: What - would you keep them in your house, you know, like, big piles of them until you get a chance to read?

Prof. LALAMI: Although I have, I am so good, I have switched to online subscriptions for most of them, so now, I don't have to feel bad about all the trees being cut.

HANSEN: I'll bet there's a book, though, that you would like to either revisit or actually read for the first time.

Prof. LALAMI: Well, I mean, I've always been curious about what it would feel like to read Nabokov a bit slowly because he's so good that you just want to sort of devour him but being able to read him very, very slowly would be kind of a luxury.

HANSEN: Would you read "Lolita" first or just go to a short story?

Prof. LALAMI: Oh, yeah. Obviously. Yes, I would probably read "Lolita" first and savor every page.

HANSEN: Our summer reader Laila Lalami. Her blog address is Thanks so much for being our summer reader.

Prof. LALAMI: Thank you very much for having me.

HANSEN: This is NPR News.

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