Laila Lalami Quotes

Immigration, a lexicon. You’re a ‘migrant’ when you’re very poor; ‘immigrant’ when you’re not so poor; and ‘expat’ when you’re rich.

Historical novels, in particular, allow us to relive the past without the neatness of history, and with all the complexity of the present.

In some ways, I think it’s the closest that we come to the truth — is in the form of fiction.

The universe had an odd sense of fairness; it took away things one did not want to give up, and then gave things one did not ask for.

A name is precious; it carries inside it a language, a history, a set of traditions, a particular way of looking at the world. Losing it meant losing my ties to all those things too.

There are writers I return to no matter what I’m working on, writers like the South African J.M. Coetzee. He has an ability to make you feel that he is writing for you alone.

When I was a child, I was reading books filled with people different from me, all French, all foreigners. There was a sense of disconnect between my sense of imagination and the world around me, which I don’t think is common for Americans. It forces you to learn to look at the world through other people’s eyes.

Thing that was very different for me is that an American child’s reading is filled with Americans.

Every book leaves its mark on you. It might leave you hungry for that kind of book or you may be satiated, and you’re eager to read something else. It might send you in a completely different direction. I love that about reading.

I also read a lot of nonfiction. I just got “Nixonland” by Rick Perlstein. I felt like what with everything that is going on with the president [Donald trump] and the parallels with [Richard] Nixon’s presidency, I needed to know more about the man.

No one wrote better about the sin of pride, the corruption of power and the redemption of love. I will miss you, Gabriel García Márquez.

I [read] “The Book of Unknown Americans,” which is by a friend of mine, Cristina Henriquez, and is about two Latino, immigrant families who live in Delaware. I’m interested in reading things from different perspectives.


Few [books] get translated and the ones that do have trouble making it into the mainstream. It’s more likely that Americans will discover another culture through an American writer rather read a writer from that culture.

I began reading in French. I didn’t read in English until high school.

I read “The Conquest of New Spain” by Bernal Diz Del Castillo, which I recommend to a lot of people. He was an eyewitness of [Hernando] Cortez’s conquest of Mexico. It’s at once very brutal and at times very plodding. It tells what they did everyday, so days can go by and nothing happens. Then all of the sudden they are torturing and doing all these dark things.

There is a insularity within American fiction even for adults. It’s very tough for books in translation in the US.

The ones that were relevant while I wrote my book were books like “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, which is based on a historical fact, “Ragtime” by E.L. Doctorow, and “True History of the Kelly Gang” by Peter Carey.

I love James Baldwin essays, but also his novels. I recently read “Another Country.” I couldn’t believe how ahead of his time he was.