Arab Writers Selected by HBKU Press to Complete Art Omi Writer’s Residency in New York

Arab Writers Selected by HBKU Press to Complete Art Omi Writer’s Residency in New York

The chosen writers from the 2019 and 2020 Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press) & Art Omi Writer’s Residency, Lilas Taha and Layanne Malluhi, will participate in the fall session of the annual Art Omi: Writers residency program in Ghent, New York beginning on October 1, 2021

Their participation is the culmination of a partnership established in 2019 between HBKU Press and Art Omi to include a writer from an Arab country in the Art Omi: Writers residency cohort. While the pandemic prevented the chosen writers from participating in the previous years’ editions of the residency due to restrictions on travel, both Taha and Malluhi will join as HBKU Press’ sponsored residents this fall.

“HBKU Press initiated this collaboration with the aim of providing Arab writers with a much-need avenue to develop their skills in a dedicated environment while taking advantage of the guidance and support of professionals in the industry,” explains Bachar Chebaro, Executive Director of HBKU Press. “The pandemic has delayed the chosen residents’ participation, but it’s heartening to see these talented writers embark on this journey as representatives of some of the best literary talents that the Gulf and MENA region has to offer.”

DW Gibson, Director, Art Omi: Writers, said: “With the COVID pandemic presenting so many challenges to our mandate for supporting writers from different regions of the world, it makes it all the more meaningful that Art Omi is able to collaborate with HBKU Press to bring these two talented writers to our residency program. We’re looking forward to getting to know them as writers and supporting their work.”

Award-winning author Taha is a writer at heart, an electrical engineer by training, and an advocate for domestic abuse victims by choice. She is the author of Shadows of Damascus (Soul Mate Publishing, 2014), Bitter Almonds (H     BKU Press, 2016), and Lost in Thyme (H     BKU Press, 2018). Taha was born in Kuwait to a Syrian mother and a Palestinian father and immigrated to the U.S. as a result of the Gulf War in 1990. She earned a master’s degree in Human Factors Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Pursuing her true passion for creative writing, Taha brings her professional interests and Middle Eastern background together in her novels.

Malluhi was born to Syrian immigrants in the United States. Her life, spent living between the U.S. and Qatar, has greatly impacted her writing. She feels that much of her work bears witness to competing paradigms, traditional and progressive, spiritual and secular, Islamic and Western. Recently, she began her MFA Creative Writing Program at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. Her short story, The Know-dom, was a prize winner in Chatham University’s “Crossing Borders” contest. Malluhi has also worked on documentaries and received an Al-Jazeera Award for the film From Victims of Poverty to Victims of Abuse, which focused on domestic worker abuse. She is currently working on a series of fiction and non-fiction texts that try to mediate between irreconcilable pieces of her cultural identity.

The inclusion of two writers chosen by a Qatari publishing house and as a result of HBKU Press’ and Art Omi’s collaboration also coincides with the Year of Culture Qatar – USA, which celebrates relations through cultural partnerships between American and Qatari organizations. Spearheaded by Qatar Museums, this annual program conveys Qatar to an international audience through a variety of exhibitions, festivals, competitions, and events.

“We hope that both Lilas and Layanne find their experience fruitful and can’t wait to see what these talented authors produce during their stay at Art Omi,” said Chebaro.

HBKU Press plans to renew its partnership with Art Omi this year to sponsor another aspiring Arab writer to participate in the HBKU Press & Art Omi: 2022 Writer’s Residency. The submission process is set to launch in November 2021, with full details to follow soon.