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Transnational Series: Layla AlAmmar and Hala Alyan with Jess Rizkallah

Transnational Series: Layla AlAmmar and Hala Alyan with Jess Rizkallah

Date(s) - 04/22/2021
3:00 pm

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$0 – $61.95 USD
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Brookline Booksmith

by Brookline Booksmith

$0 – $61.95

Date And Time

Thu, Apr 22, 2021, 3:00 PM PDT

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Online Event

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Layla AlAmmar and Hala Alyan discuss their new books ‘Silence Is a Sense’ and ‘The Arsonists’ City’ with poet Jess Rizkallah.

About this Event

Join the Transnational Literature Series at Brookline Booksmith for a virtual event with Layla AlAmmar and Hala Alyan to discuss their new books Silence Is a Sense and The Arsonists’ City. They’ll be in conversation with poet Jess Rizkallah.

A young woman sits in her apartment, watching the small daily dramas of her neighborhood. She is an outsider, a mute voyeur, safe behind her windows, and she sees it all. Journeying from her war-torn Syrian homeland to this unnamed British city has traumatized her into silence, and her only connection to the world is the column she writes for a magazine under the pseudonym “the Voiceless,” where she tries to explain the refugee experience without sensationalizing it—or revealing anything about herself.

Gradually, though, the boundaries of her world expand. When an anti-Muslim hate crime rattles the neighborhood, she has to make a choice: Will she remain a voiceless observer, or become an active participant in a community that, despite her best efforts, is quickly becoming her own? Silence is a Sense is a complex and fluid book about memory, revolution, loss, and safety.

Layla AlAmmar is a writer and academic from Kuwait. She was the 2018 British Council international writer in residence at the Small Wonder Short Story Festival. Her debut novel, The Pact We Made, was published in 2019. She has written for The Guardian and ArabLit Quarterly. She is currently pursuing a PhD on the intersection of Arab women’s fiction and literary trauma theory.

The Nasr family is spread across the globe—Beirut, Brooklyn, Austin, the California desert. A Syrian mother, a Lebanese father, and three American children: all have lived a life of migration. Still, they’ve always had their ancestral home in Beirut—a constant touchstone—and the complicated, messy family love that binds them. But following his father’s recent death, Idris, the family’s new patriarch, has decided to sell. The decision brings the family to Beirut, where everyone unites against Idris in a fight to save the house.

They all have secrets that distance has helped smother. But in a city smoldering with the legacy of war, an ongoing flow of refugees, religious tension, and political protest, those secrets ignite, imperiling the fragile ties that hold this family together. The Arsonists’ City is a rich family story, a personal look at the legacy of war in the Middle East, and an indelible rendering of how we hold on to the people and places we call home.

Hala Alyan is the author of the novel Salt Houses, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab American Book Award and a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize, as well as four award-winning collections of poetry, most recently The Twenty-Ninth Year. Her work has been published by The New Yorker, the Academy of American Poets, LitHub, the New York Times Book Review, and Guernica. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, where she works as a clinical psychologist.

Moderator Jess Rizkallah is a Lebanese-American writer and illustrator. Her full-length collection the magic my body becomes was a finalist for The Believer Poetry Award and won the 2017 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize as awarded by the Radius of Arab-American Writers and University of Arkansas Press. Find her at

About the Transnational Literature Series at Brookline Booksmith

The Transnational Series focuses on stories of migration, the intersection of politics & literature, and works in translation and is supported by the independent bookstore Brookline Booksmith. Subscribe to the Transnational Series newsletter for information on upcoming events, book recommendations, and more.

What You Need to Know to Attend

This virtual event is free to attend but please consider purchasing Silence Is a Sense and The Arsonists’ City from Brookline Booksmith. Register on this page to receive a Zoom link on the day of the event. If you don’t receive a confirmation email after registering, contact us right away.

Get Your Books

  • Books are held for pickup or shipped after ticket sales have closed.
  • Store Pickup: Pick up your book in person at Brookline Booksmith (Click here for directions). You will receive an email alert when your book is ready.
  • Shipping: Have your book shipped via USPS priority mail. Shipping is only available in the United States.

About Donations

We are pleased to make this event free for entry, but you may notice you have the option to donate. By donating, you help Brookline Booksmith build toward a stronger today and a post-pandemic future. Every dollar of support means the world to us. Thank you for your continued support!

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