Saleem Haddad and Miriam Frank – Local Author Night
5 May @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Join us for an evening with Saleem Haddad, who will be reading from his novel Guapa, and Miriam Frank, who will be reading from her memoir Unfinished Portrait.
Guapa is a debut novel about a young gay man coming of age in the Middle East. Set over the course of twenty-four hours, the novel follows Rasa, a gay man living in an unnamed Arab country, and trying to carve out a life for himself in the midst of political and religious upheaval. Rasa spends his days translating for Western journalists, and pining for the nights when he can sneak his lover, Taymour, into his room. Then one morning Rasa’s grandmother, the woman who raised him, catches them in bed together. The following day—the day leading up to Taymour’s wedding—Rasa is consumed by the search for his best friend Maj, a fiery activist and drag queen star of the underground bar, Guapa, who has been arrested by the police. Ashamed to go home and face his grandmother, and reeling from the potential loss of the three most important people in his life, he roams the city’s slums and prisons, the lavish weddings of the country’s elite, and the bars where outcasts and intellectuals drink to a long-lost revolution. Each new encounter leads him closer to confronting his own identity, as he revisits his childhood and probes the secrets that haunt his family. As Rasa confronts the simultaneous collapse of political hope and his closest personal relationships, he is forced to discover the roots of his alienation and try to re-emerge into a society that may never accept him.
Unfinished Portrait is a poignant description of an estranged mother-daughter relationship, constructed through photo albums her mother kept with her at all times but that Miriam had never seen. Seeing them for the first time, Miriam resolved to use their poignant images as a means of reconciliation. In this elegant book of journeys, she recreates her mother’s life, describing her time as a German communist who had a free liaison with Louis Frank, an anarchist, filmmaker and American counterintelligence spy, to her relaxed pregnancy in Robert Graves’ peaceful Deià and finally her precipitous flight from Barcelona with her infant daughter and one suitcase to Vichy France, to Casablanca and onwards to a community in Mexico, surrounded by Leon Trotsky, Frida Kahlo and other surrealists, artists, refugees and radicals. It is a beautiful portrayal, in which the author honours the mother who did everything to save her from a chilling fate.
SALEEM HADDAD was born in Kuwait City in 1983 to a Lebanese-Palestinian father and an Iraqi-German mother, and was educated in Jordan, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He has worked as an aid worker with Médecins Sans Frontières and other organisations in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Lebanon and Iraq. His writing has appeared in Slate, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Daily Beast, among other publications. He currently lives in London.
MIRIAM FRANK previously published an acclaimed memoir, My Innocent Absence: Exile on Five Continents, which was longlisted for the Ackeley Prize 2011. She was one of the first senior lecturers in anaesthesia at London Hospital and was married to the painter Rudolf Kortokraks, Oskar Kokoschka’s designated successor at the School of Vision. Schooled in Mexico, she trained as a doctor in New Zealand, lived in Israel, and moved to Islington, London, when she met her husband. She has translated works from the Spanish and currently lives in Battersea, South West London.