For 10 years El Akkad led a double life, working as an international war reporter for Canada’s The Globe and Mail and writing fiction between midnight and 5:00 a.m., squeezing in sleep here and there. The grueling schedule allowed him to write three draft novels that never left his hard drive, but his fourth, American War, was not only published, but is creating significant and well-deserved buzz.
El Akkad’s future dystopian tale begins in 2075 during the second American Civil War, in which Red and Blue states clash over the need for sustainable energy. Set in a late-21st century US ravaged by global warming, this ambitious debut encourages western readers to put themselves in the shoes of the world’s displaced peoples.
“Whether read as a cautionary tale of partisanship run amok, an allegory of past conflictsor a study of the psychology of war, ‘American War’ is a deeply unsettling novel. The only comfort the story offers is that it’s a work of fiction. For the time being, anyway.” – Justin Cronin, The New York Times
“Powerful…If violence and conflict feel distant, journalist Omar El Akkad’s debut novel brings them home.” — GQ
As a Canadian international war reporter, working for The Globe and Mail, El Akkad covered the war in Afghanistan, military trials at Guantánamo Bay, the Arab Spring protests in Egypt, the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri, and the effects of climate change in places like Florida and Louisiana.
“A lot of the world of the book is based on the things I saw while on those assignments,” El Akkad says. “I like to say that a lot of what happened in this book happened; it just happened to people far away.”
“It’s called American War,” he says of the novel, “but I never intended to write a book about America or war; I intended to write a book about the universality of revenge. I wanted to explore the idea that when people are broken by war, broken by injustice, broken by mistreatment, they become broken in the same way.”
El Akkad is a recipient of the National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting for his coverage on the “Toronto 18” terrorism arrests. He has also received the Goff Penny Memorial Prize for Young Journalists, as well as three National Magazine Award honorable mentions. He is a graduate of Queen’s University.
Following Omar’s reading and Q&A in the evening, we’ll have our popular Open Mic where up to nine local or visiting writers will read 5 minutes of their original work. The suggested (not required) theme for the evening’s Open Mic is “Revenge.“
NOTE: Admission for the evening reading is $7. Doors open at