Internationally acclaimed Egyptian-Canadian novelist and journalist Omar El Akkad is The University of Winnipeg’s 2023 Jake MacDonald Writer in Residence.
His work is gripping, heartrending, and courageously faces his chosen subject matter with both deep emotional intelligence and a precise poet’s eye.
Dr. Sandy Pool
Hosted annually by the Department of English, El Akkad’s residency will take place entirely online from September 18 to December 12. UWinnipeg students, as well as community members, can book writing consultations through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“As a long-time reader of Omar El Akkad’s work, I am thrilled to welcome Omar as our third 2023 Jake MacDonald Writer in Residence. His work is gripping, heartrending, and courageously faces his chosen subject matter with both deep emotional intelligence and a precise poet’s eye,” said Dr. Sandy Pool, Chair of the Jake MacDonald Writer-in-Residence Committee. “His newest book, What Strange Paradise, examines the global refugee crisis through the eyes of a young refugee. This book finds the human story at the heart of the text and engages deeply with the complexities of the global migrant crisis.”
“We are so lucky to have a writer of this calibre at our institution. I hope our UWinnipeg community is able to learn from Omar and are inspired by his international panel discussion upcoming in November.”
In addition to his residency, El Akkad will be delivering a reading and Q&A session on October 12 at 7:00 p.m. on Zoom. He will also be participating in an international panel event, and the details for this second event will be announced on the Department of English website and social media channels when available.
Now in its third year, the Jake Macdonald Writer-in-Residence program remains unique in Canada.
“This particular residency is conducted entirely online, which allows the writer in residence to mentor both UWinnipeg students and the larger Manitoba literary community,” Dr. Pool said. “Additionally, I’ve designed an international writers’ panel which pairs a Canadian writer with an international writer for compelling craft-based discussions of creative writing and social justice. This pairing helps to promote Canadian writing internationally, and also brings dynamic new voices to The University of Winnipeg.”
About Omar El Akkad
For 10 years, El Akkad was a staff reporter for The Globe and Mail, where he covered the War in Afghanistan, military trials at Guantanamo Bay, and the Arab Spring in Egypt. He was most recently a correspondent for the western United States, where he covered the Black Lives Matter Movement.
His debut novel, American War, published in 2017, is an international bestseller and has been translated into 13 languages. New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani compared it favourably to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America. The Globe and Mail called it “a masterful debut.”
American War won the Pacific Northwest Book Award, the Oregon Book Award for Fiction, and the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, and has been nominated for more than 10 other awards, including the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the Amazon Canada First Novel Award. It was listed as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, Washington Post, GQ, NPR, Esquire, and was selected by the BBC as one of 100 novels that changed our world.
His second novel, What Strange Paradise, published in 2021 about a young boy fleeing Syria, won the Giller Prize for Fiction, the Pacific Northwest Book Award, and was longlisted for the 2023 Dublin Literary Award. It was also chosen as a best book of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, The Globe and Mail, and others. The novel was selected for the 2022 edition of Canada Reads, where it was defended by Tareq Hadhad.
The Jake MacDonald Writer-in-Residence program was made possible by the creative thinking and generosity of MacDonald’s family, friends, and peers through the Jake MacDonald Writers’ Fund, and was created by a generous founding gift from his friend Dr. Angus Reid.