A new collection of short stories from Palestinian-American writer Susan Muaddi Darraj has been awarded the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, a major creative writing award for English-language fiction made by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs.
Muaddi Darraj’s forthcoming collection A Curious Land: Stories from Home, which will be published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 2015, tells the tale of several generations of Palestinian families, from their home village of Tel al-Hilou to life in the modern United States.
One of the AWP judges, Jaime Manrique, described A Curious Land by saying that:
The author’s empathy for the large cast of embattled characters is miraculous. In particular, we get to know the quietly heroic Palestinian women in these stories as intimately as we know the people closest to us. Astonishingly, this collection is, above all, about the transformative powers of love.
The author’s own website also notes that A Curious Land had been shortlisted for the Pressgang Prize, an award made by Butler University.
Muaddi Darraj’s previous collection of stories, The Inheritance of Exile, focuses on the lives of Palestinian communities in Philadelphia. It was shortlisted for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award in 2007, and was praised by Palestinian literary critic and scholar Steven Salaita as:
… a remarkably engaging collection. With this effort, Muaddi Darraj announces her presence as a major voice in the genre of fiction. The collection sparkles with a lively sense of place, conflict, and description. So often, and so vividly, I felt as if I was reading the cultural items from my own memory.
Watch Susan Muaddi Darraj read “Abu Sufayan,” one of her stories of Palestinian life under the British Mandate: