Palestinian writer and activist Laila El-Haddad shared how her personal life and politics of her home country created her award-winning works.
El-Haddad shared her journey to becoming an author that started with a blog she began about her son, Yousuf. The success of this blog caught the attention of fellow Palestinians and encouraged her to continue writing which led to the publication of her book “Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting and Everything In Between.”
El-Haddad’s writing focuses on her experiences in every aspect of her daily life. She reflected on the difficulties of juggling multiple identities as a mother, woman, Palestinian and Muslim in her writing.
“For me, it was always a struggle of finding my voice and figuring out how to convey my experience, and by and large, the Palestinian experience,” El-Haddad said.
El-Haddad touched on the difficulties she had with combining mundane occurrences and political turmoil in her writings. She said this allowed her to reveal the truth of what was happening while living in Gaza during the Gaza Disengagement, while simultaneously stressing the simplicities of humanity and the importance of culture.
“That’s why I got involved with food. It’s such a great way to perpetuate those memories and histories,” El-Haddad said.
El-Haddad shared food from the recipes in her book with the attendees. Several people also brought their own Palestinian food for the group as well.
When asked about her writing style, El-Haddad said she became accustomed to constant traveling between the U.S. and Palestine. Although her husband lives in the U.S. and is not allowed to travel to Gaza, El-Haddad still traveled to Palestine to continue her work. She said she knows the state continues to struggle politically and she tries to channel this into her writing.
She said she asks herself when writing about tough topics, “How can I pick up those pieces and utilize it? How can I make it something meaningful?” El-Haddad reflected on her past struggles with embracing all aspects of her identity, and said she now realizes how each aspect is important to who she is.
“As you grow older, you come to peace with it,” El-Haddad said. “I can be all these things and not be all these places and it’s OK.”