Author Readings & American War by Omar El Akkad

This week I finished reading American War by Omar El Akkad. It’s a fascinating speculative story about a second American Civil War 50 years from now.

Two days after finishing, I turned on the radio and there was Omar El Akkad talking about his book. Even better, he was making an appearance in St. Paul the next day. Score.

A Word About Author Readings

I love seeing authors in person. It’s such a unique way to get a glimpse into who they are and how they create. It’s an opportunity that takes the book reading experience so much deeper.

And they’re almost always free.

I wish I had done a lot more of that in college when I was still learning how to be a writer. (One of my first experiences of it came in college—Wendell Berry reading Jayber Crow.)

American War

“You fight the war with guns, you fight the peace with stories.”

What’s fascinating about this novel is that it takes incidents happening around the world—terrorism and extremism and refugees and atrocities—and recasts them in America. It’s like seeing the conflicts overseas come home to roost.

So depressing? Yeah, a bit. But also eye-opening and empathy building.

One note that I found fascinating was that Omar, who considers himself rootless—he was born in Egypt, grew up in Qatar, is a Canadian citizen, and now lives in Portland—says the South feels like home.

“They’re incredibly generous people. Very hospitable—would give you the shirt off their back. They also have lots of traditions, both good and bad, and God help you if you cross them.”

His comparison of Southern culture to Middle Eastern culture is surprising and insightful. It’s takes the book’s themes and ideas to a deeper level.

Good stuff.

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