Laila Halaby

Laila Halaby was born in Beirut, Lebanon, to a Jordanian father and an American mother.  She speaks four languages, won a Fulbright scholarship to study folklore in Jordan, and holds a master's degree in Arabic literature.  Her first novel, West of the Jordan, won the prestigious PEN Beyond Margins Award. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her family.


For more about Laila, see
her website.


My Name on His Tongue: Poetry Cover Image
ISBN: 9780815632948
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Published: Syracuse University Press - May 15th, 2012

Best-selling novelist and PEN Award winner Laila Halaby presents readers with her first collection of poetry. Intensely personal and marked with a trenchant wit, these poems form a memoir following Halaby’s life as they explore the disorientation of exile, the challenge of navigating two cultures, and the struggle to shape her own creative identity. She shares the pain and confusion of growing up—the need for belonging and the solace of community—with tenderness and fearless candor. Rooted in her Middle Eastern heritage, these poems illuminate the Arab American experience over the last quarter century. Turning away from all that is esoteric and remote in American poetry today, Halaby’s lucid and forthright voice speaks to and for a large audience.

Once in a Promised Land Cover Image
ISBN: 9780807083918
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Published: Beacon Press (MA) - January 15th, 2008

Once in a Promised Land is the story of Jassim and Salwa, who left the deserts of their native Jordan for those of Arizona, each chasing mirages of opportunity and freedom. Although the couple live far from Ground Zero, they cannot escape the dust cloud of paranoia settling over the nation. A hydrologist, Jassim believes passionately in his mission to make water accessible to all people, but his work is threatened by an FBI witch hunt for domestic terrorists. A Palestinian now twice displaced, Salwa embraces the American dream. She grapples to put down roots in an unwelcoming climate, becoming pregnant against her husband's wishes.

When Jassim kills a teenage boy in a terrible accident and Salwa becomes hopelessly entangled with a shadowy young American, their tenuous lives in exile and their fragile marriage begin to unravel. Once in a Promised Land is a dramatic and achingly honest look at what it means to straddle cultures, to be viewed with suspicion, and to struggle to find safe haven.

"Set in the early days of post-September 11th America, ONCE IN A PROMISED LAND draws its structure from Arabian folklore and the western fairy tale, turning both inside out to illuminate the mythic search for home and identity, the universal hunger of the soul for the genuine, and the wounding yet redemptive nature of love itself. In this timely and utterly original novel, Laila Halaby has crafted a deeply resonant tale of our tangled and common humanity." --Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog

West of the Jordan Cover Image
ISBN: 9780807083598
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Published: Beacon Press (MA) - May 1st, 2003

This is a revelatory first novel by a woman who is both an Arab and an American. Through the narratives of four cousins at the brink of maturity, Laila Halaby immerses readers in the lives, friendships, and loves of girls struggling with national, ethnic, and sexual identities.