Laila Lalami

Cindy Seip

Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the U.S. She is the author of four novels, including The Moor’s Account: A Novel, which won the American Book Award, the Arab American Book Award, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her most recent work, The Other Americans, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and her essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. In Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America (Vintage), Lalami examines how accidents of birth – such as national origin, race, and gender – once determined the boundaries of Americanness and still cast shadows today. Recounting her journey from Moroccan immigrant to U.S. citizen, Lalami uses it as a starting point for her exploration of American rights, liberties, and the place of nonwhites in the broader American culture, and illustrates how white supremacy survives through adaptation and legislation. It maintains, she argues, a caste system that keeps the modern equivalent of white male landowners at the top of the social hierarchy. Conditional citizens, she writes, are all the people whom America embraces with one arm and pushes away with the other. Kirkus called the book “consistently thoughtful and incisive … a bracingly provocative collection perfect for our times.”