Omar El Akkad, What Strange Paradise
We are thrilled to welcome Omar El Akkad back for the launch of the paperback edition of his award-winning second novel What Strange Paradise, published by Vintage/PRH. This novel, which looks at the global refugee crisis through the eys of a child, won the Giller Prize, the Oregon Book Award for Fiction, and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award and was a finalist for The Aspen Words Literary Prize and Canada Reads 2022.
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, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives back in their homelands. But miraculously, someone has survived the passage: nine-year-old Amir. He is soon rescued by Vänna, a teenage girl who, despite being native to the island, experiences her own sense of homelessness. Though Vänna and Amir are complete strangers, Vänna is determined to do whatever it takes to save the boy. 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.
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 Oregon. 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 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, and the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize and was 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 fiction and non-fiction writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Guernica, GQ, and many other newspapers and magazines.