BABEL: Omar El Akkad
Join Just Buffalo Literary Center for an evening with bestselling author and journalist Omar El Akkad.
What Strange Paradise
ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, NPR
WINNER OF THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
LONGLISTED FOR THE ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR
“Told from the point of view of two children, on the ground and at sea, the story so astutely unpacks the us-versus-them dynamics of our divided world that it deserves to be an instant classic.”
—The New York Times Book Review
From the widely acclaimed, bestselling author of American War—a beautifully written, unrelentingly dramatic, and profoundly moving novel that looks at the global refugee crisis through the eyes of a child.
More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another overfilled, ill-equipped, dilapidated ship has sunk under the weight of its too many passengers: Syrians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives back in their homelands. But miraculously, someone has survived the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who is soon rescued by Vänna. Vänna is a teenage girl, who, despite being native to the island, experiences her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though Vänna and Amir are complete strangers, though they don’t speak a common language, Vänna is determined to do whatever it takes to save the boy. In alternating chapters, we learn about Amir’s life and how he came to be on the boat, and we follow him and the girl as they make their way toward safety. What Strange Paradise is the story of two children finding their way through a hostile world. But it is also a story of empathy and indifference, of hope and despair—and about the way each of those things can blind us to reality.
No Reading Guide available at this time.
Individual BABEL event tickets include a ticket for in-person attendance at Kleinhans Music Hall, as well as a virtual link to view from home via Livestream. All tickets will be issued electronically for the 2022–2023 season, though you may opt to have a paper ticket mailed to you in as well. (NOTE: Any tickets sold on or after October 10 will be held at the will call window.)
- General Admission: $40 each
- General Admission with Library Card: $35 each (have your BECPL card ready!)
- VIP Patron: $100 each (includes catered pre-event reception attended by the featured author and preferred seating)
- Student: $10 each (must present a valid Student ID at events)
NOTE: Currently, proof of COVID-19 vaccination is not required for entry to BABEL events. We will continue to monitor health & safety recommendations and communicate any changes or updates to ticketholders as necessary. Please note that we are unable to provide refunds for tickets.
Omar El AkkadAuthor & Journalist
Omar El Akkad is an author and journalist. He was born in Egypt, grew up in Qatar, moved to Canada as a teenager and now lives in the United States. The start of his journalism career coincided with the start of the war on terror, and over the following decade he reported from Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and many other locations around the world. His work earned a National Newspaper Award for Investigative Journalism and the Goff Penny Award for young journalists.
His fiction and non-fiction writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Guernica, GQ, and many other newspapers and magazines.
His debut novel, American War, is an international bestseller and has been translated into thirteen languages. It won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Award, the Oregon Book Award for fiction, the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, and has been nominated for more than ten other awards. It was listed as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, Washington Post, GQ, NPR, and Esquire, and was selected by the BBC as one of 100 novels that changed our world.
His short story “Government Slots” was selected for the Best Canadian Stories 2020 anthology. His new novel, What Strange Paradise, was released in 2021 from Knopf.
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