In Secret Son, your main character, Youssef, a university student who comes from a very poor background, discovers the identity of his father and decides to go find him.  Would you describe this as a very common Moroccan story?



Youssef’s half-sister Amal studies mathematics at UCLA and has a major rift with her father.  Is this character based on you?



I read somewhere that you write in English in order to speak directly to Americans, since they don’t read many books in translation.   Is this in order to educate American readers about Morocco?

I never said that.


But I read it in a major newspaper!

I read that Iraq had WMDs, but that didn’t make it true!


Do you consider yourself an American writer or a Moroccan writer?

I consider myself a writer.


Is your novel meant as a commentary on the current social, political, economic, linguistic, cultural, educational, and agricultural situation in Morocco?

It would be hard for any book, much less a novel, to do all that.


You sound a little touchy.

Do I?


Do you enjoy doing interviews?

Not really.


Even when you’re interviewing yourself?

Especially when I’m interviewing myself.


Do you watch TV?

I don’t own a TV.



Of course not!  I was kidding.


So what are your favorite shows?

Probably “The Wire,” but that’s not on anymore.  “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” are my current favorites.


Well, thank you for your time.

It was your time, too.  So thank you!

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LAILA LALAMI was born and raised in Morocco. She attended Université Mohammed-V in Rabat, University College in London, and the University of Southern California, where she earned a Ph.D. in linguistics. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, the New York Times, the Washington Post and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a British Council Fellowship and a Fulbright Fellowship. She was short-listed for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2006 and for the National Book Critics’ Circle Nona Balakian Award in 2009. She is the author of the short story collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and the novel Secret Son. Her work has been translated into ten languages. She is currently Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California at Riverside.

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