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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cairo in White by Kelly Ann Jacobson

As Cairo swelters in the summer of 1986, spunky Egyptian teen Zahra pins on her hijab and faces the heat like a warrior, prepared to risk everything for a secret rendezvous with her lover. But after climbing the Ahmeds’ wall and sneaking into their household, Zahra’s parents catch her and force her to choose between telling them the truth about her relationship with the Ahmeds’ daughter or marrying the son they think she’s been sneaking there to see.

Years later, Zahra’s American daughter, Aisha, steps off a plane at Cairo International Airport and greets her grandparents for the first time. Who is this tall girl wearing black clothes, piercings, and a pixie cut, they wonder, and what secrets does she hold? Zahra and Aisha’s lives unfold together as they both grapple with their religious beliefs, social pressures, love, and the search for a place to call home amidst the feminist movement and the Arab Spring.

Kelly Ann Jacobson is a fiction writer, poet, and lyricist who lives in Falls Church, Virginia. She recently received her MA
in Fiction at Johns Hopkins University, and she now teach as a Professor of Literature and Writing Lab Instructor. Kelly is the author of several published novels, including Cairo in White, The Zaniyah Trilogy, and the forthcoming Caron High News, and her stories have been published or will be published in reviews and magazines such as Iron Horse Literary Review and New Plains Review. Her work, including information about her forthcoming novels and previously published poems, fiction, lyrics, and nonfiction, can be found at
Twitter: @KAnnJacobson

Praise for Cairo In White
“Anchored by family, culture and love, this story about enduring relationships is a joy to read.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Kelly Jacobson brilliantly weaves the coming-of-age story of a headstrong Egyptian daughter, Aisha, with the remembered regrets of the mother who raised her within narrative so smooth the reader only remembers to pause during moments when Jacobson’s lyricism glints so brightly one must slow to admire. With grace and great detail, Cairo in White speaks of loneliness and love, of expectation of self versus obligation, and of cultures starkly different but, ultimately, blurred. I couldn’t put it down, nor could I choose which protagonist I was most drawn to. Wholly engaging and absolutely artful.” -Brandi Dawn Henderson, author Whereabouts: Stepping Out of Place

“A gem of a story dealing with self-identity and set against the vivid backdrops of modern-day America and Egypt.” -Tim Wendel, author Castro’s Curveball and Habana Libre

“Kelly Ann Jacobson is a natural writer, with a fluent and musical prose rich in detail, and a special gift for narration, a keen sense for the way a good story unfolds for the reader. She’s very, very talented and I’m sure “Cairo in White” is only the first of many wonderful books.” – Nels Hanson, James. D. Phelan Award for fiction, five-time Pushcart Prize nominee.
Author Blog Posts and Essays
“Culture Clash in Cairo,” The Tufts Get Going Radio Interview (October 15, 2014)
- See more at: http://www.kellyannjacobson.com/cairo-in-white#sthash.RxBlxtHH.dpuf

Four Questions for Kelly:

The one book that influenced you as a kid and your absolute fave as an adult. 

One might say I was “obsessed” with reading as a kid—I read five books a day during the summer. True, that was mostly because I wanted to win all of the prizes from the mobile library that came to our neighborhood, but I also preferred reading to anything else in the world. I must have read Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede at least monthly, so that’s probably at the top of my list, but there were so many others, including Ella Enchanted, Which Witch, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond (are you seeing a theme?). I only write YA fantasy novels occasionally, but I love them and they’re the easiest and fastest to write. In terms of adult novels, I have an ongoing affair with The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje.  

Favorite TV show, now and past.

As a kid, we didn’t have a functioning antenna (and I wasn’t really allowed to watch TV anyway, which helped foster the whole book obsession thing), so I missed a huge chunk of ‘90’s culture. Recently, I binge watched The L Word and Orange Is the New Black to the point where I wasn’t leaving my house or sleeping. 

Do you write and read in the same genre? Why does this genre appeal to you?

Yes, in the sense that I read all genres (except for nonfiction, I can’t stand real facts) and write all genres. I love YA fantasy, literary fiction, LGBT, poetry, and occasionally personal essays, and I write all of those off and on whenever I get bored with another project. The adventure of switching around is what makes writing exciting for me—it feels like watching a new movie instead of work—but it can be a curse when it comes to marketing. “Yes, I’m that poet/LGBT/fiction writer who wrote that XOJane article about turning your suits into everyday wear.” Literary fiction that can accommodate multiple genres, such as my novel Cairo in White (literary/LGBT with poetic elements), are the books that I’m always the proudest of. 

How did you arrive at the land of Published Author. For instance, did you try the literary agent route, consider self-pub, etc.

At 26 years old, I am already very jaded by the “traditional” route of publishing. I’ve tried to get an agent for most of my big projects, and there are always a few nibbles and manuscript requests, but the whole thing takes too long and is too frustrating to really work with my rapid book production. I do hope to get an agent one day, but in the meantime, I’ve very happy publishing with small presses. I occasionally self-publish, but only in rare instances, such as if I’m editing an anthology like my most recent Magical: An Anthology of Fantasy, Fairy Tales, and Other Fiction or producing a chapbook of poetry about robots in the year 2050 that I know no one will buy (Robots on the Horizon). 


Chrys Fey said...

I love stories set in Egypt! And this sounds good.

I also loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond when I was a kid. Anything to do with witches and I'd devour it. :)

Liz A. said...

I was obsessed with reading as a kid, too.

Huntress said...

An interesting topic, I think. Very informative.
In an area of lethal intolerance, it would be suicide to admit to a viewpoint that is against the norm.

Plus the book has some dandy writing *G*