An award-winning Iraqi writer creates a new world for himself in Seattle in search of lost love.
As the US occupation of Iraq rages, novelist Mortada Gzar, a student at the University of Baghdad, has a chance encounter with Morise, an African American soldier. It’s love at first sight, a threat to them both, and a moment of self-discovery. Challenged by society’s rejection and Morise’s return to the US, Mortada takes to the page to understand himself.
In his deeply affecting memoir, Mortada interweaves tales of his childhood work as a scrap-metal collector in a war zone and the indignities faced by openly gay artists in Iraq with his impossible love story and journey to the US. Marginalized by his own society, he is surprised to discover the racism he finds in a new one. At its heart, I’m in Seattle, Where Are You? is a moving tale of love and resilience.
Praise for I’m in Seattle, Where Are You?
“Wildly inventive…Built on keenly observed cultural, political, and personal details and populated by vivid characters, this book—illustrated throughout with Gzar’s starkly surreal ink drawings—draws readers into a narrative web that is by turns shocking, funny, and deeply moving. A magical tragicomic story of love, sacrifice, and conviction.” —Kirkus Reviews
“An exquisite story of life and lost love…Gzar’s nonlinear narrative and lyrical prose convey his deep desire to reunite with his lover…hard to put down and difficult to forget.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Mortada Gzar’s memoir, I’m in Seattle, Where Are You?, is a dazzling account of love, loss, and the complications of exile. This Iraqi novelist, filmmaker, and artist, a Whitman-like figure who contains multitudes in his embrace of the cosmos, understands ‘that stories, like meteors, obey the laws of physics,’ and what emerges in the stories he tells to an array of characters, including the statue of a vagrant, is proof that while ‘their energy does not fade or increase’ they will shape the lives and thinking of those who have the good luck to hear them. This is exactly the book to read in this fraught time.” —Christopher Merrill, author of Self-Portrait with Dogwood
“A memoir more formalistically creative than most novels! Mortada has extraordinary experiences, a generous heart, and incredible talent.” —Anton Hur, PEN Translates award-winning translator
Iraqi novelist, filmmaker, journalist, and visual artist Mortada Gzar was born in Kuwait in 1982, grew up in Basra, Iraq, and now lives in Seattle, Washington. He earned a degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Baghdad and was later a member of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Gzar is the author of four novels, a children’s book, and a short-story collection; he has illustrated two books for children. English translations of his work have appeared in Words Without Borders, World Literature Today, and Iraq + 100: The First Anthology of Science Fiction to Have Emerged from Iraq, and his journalism and political cartoons are featured in Arabic newspapers. Gzar’s animated films have been featured in international film festivals, his film Language was awarded a grant by the Doha Film Institute, and he created the Seattle Arab Film Festival hosted by the Northwest Film Forum.