Diana Abu-Jaber

American author and professor

Diana Abu-Jaber is an American author and a professor.


  • It’s hard to write too overtly about racism without coming across as heavy-handed or didactic. But if you’re too subtle, there’s the sense that you’re side-stepping the issue. Still, I’ve learned to write about hot button topics in more oblique ways, mostly by looking at people’s “innocent” assumptions about each other…
  • I never intended to write solely about Arab characters, or even primarily about them, but because they were such a big part of my first two novels and my memoir, people reckoned that was my main literary terrain. It wasn’t really a deliberate decision to move away from Arab characters in my later books, but more a desire to paint on a broader canvas, one that was closer to my day-to-day experience.
  • …I think that was really important growing up around story tellers like my dad and my uncles. I think it instilled a love of the beauty of the spoken story. Also, my mother was a reading teacher. She brought home a lot of fables and fairy tales, which also have an oral tradition behind them. It was a combination of those things that brought me the desire to tell stories, as opposed to a love of the beauty of writing.
  • …I pretended I didn't understand Arabic when he spoke to me in public places. Because when I was a younger child, Arabic was a secret code in the family - I think that’s true for a lot of immigrant families. But then I didn't want to speak Arabic. I didn't want to be different from my friends at all…
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