Author Ghada Abdel Aal Discusses Best-Selling Book “I Want to Get Married!”

9780292723979Ghada Abdel Aal will discuss her best-selling book “I Want to Get Married!” (University of Texas Press, Oct. 2010) at an event hosted by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Arabic Flagship Program, and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.

After years of searching for Mr. Right in living-room meetings arranged by family or friends, Ghada Abdel Aal, a young Egyptian professional, decided to take to the blogosphere to share her experiences and vent her frustrations at being young, single, and female in Egypt. Her blog, I Want to Get Married!, quickly became a hit with both men and women in the Arab world. With a keen sense of humor and biting social commentary, Abdel Aal recounts in painful detail her adventures with failed proposals and unacceptable suitors. There’s Mr. Precious, who storms out during their first meeting when he feels his favorite athlete has been slighted, and another suitor who robs her in broad daylight, to name just a few of the characters she runs across in her pursuit of wedded bliss.

“I Want to Get Married!” has since become a best-selling book in Egypt and the inspiration for a television series. This witty look at dating challenges skewed representations of the Middle East and presents a realistic picture of what it means to be a single young woman in the Arab world, where, like elsewhere, a good man can be hard to find.

The book was translated by University of Texas at Austin alumna Nora Eltahawy, who earned her master’s degree in comparative literature in May 2010.

The author will discuss her book 3:30 p.m., Thursday, October 28, at the AT&T Conference Center, Classroom 105. A book signing will follow at 7 p.m. at BookWoman, located at 5501 North Lamar, A-105.

Playwright-in-Residence’s Work Featured

MyattBWThe UT Michener Center for Writers will sponsor a reading of the award-winning play The Happy Ones by its current Michener Residency Author,  Julie Marie Myatt, at 7 p.m., Thursday, October 28, at the Avaya Auditorium, ACE 2.302 on the southeast corner of 24th and Speedway.

Myatt is a Los Angeles-based playwright whose most recent productions include Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter, the story of an amputee GI and her difficult return from the war in Iraq; Boats on a River, which deals with Cambodian sex-slave trafficking; and Someday, a piece about reproductive rights, commissioned by Cornerstone Theater for its Justice Cycle.  But Myatt can’t be pigeon-holed as the author of “issue plays”—her work is much subtler than that. “Julie says everything she wants to say . . . without really having to say it,” Cornerstone’s artistic director Michael John Garcés says.

Living the dream life in suburban Orange County, California, in 1975, The Happy One‘s protagonist, appliance salesman Walter Wells, is a man who has it all—until sudden calamity descends on his perfect life.  At the same time, the area is experiencing its first influx of refugees from the fall of Saigon, and an unlikely friendship develops between Walter and Bao Ngo, a refugee who bears his own recent sorrows.  Across a cultural divide, the two look to each other for a way back, if not to happiness, at least to peace.

c. 1972 Bill Owens from SUBURBIA

c. 1972 Bill Owens from SUBURBIA

Myatt’s own early life was shaped by the Vietnam War, where her father served two tours of duty during her toddler years. But personal history alone wasn’t the impetus for the play. She became interested in the undercurrents beneath idyllic family lives when she saw the photography of Bill Owens in his seminal book, Suburbia, published in 1973. His was the first major photographic exploration of middle-class lives and the book, according to an LA Times review at the time, “rouses pity, contempt, laughter and self-recognition.” Echoing Owen’s themes, Julie says of her subjects, “I want to write about what is interesting in American life and what is dead about it.”

The Michener Residency Author program brings distinguished writers to campus for three-week stays, during which they mentor students in workshops and manuscript conferences. Myatt is the first playwright to be selected for the program.

The play will be read by five actors, and the event is free and open to the public.

Winners of the Fourteenth Annual Hamilton Book Awards Sponsored by the University Co-operative Society

9780674023512-lgThe winners of this year’s University Co-op Robert W. Hamilton Book Awards were announced on Wednesday, October 20, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. The Hamilton Award is one of the highest honors of literary achievement given to published authors at the University of Texas at Austin. Chairman of the University Co-operative Society, Dr. Michael H. Granof hosted the event and announced the winners. President Bill Powers of The University of Texas at Austin presented the awards.

The Hamilton Awards are named in honor of Professor Robert W. Hamilton, the Minerva House Drysdale Regent Chair-Emeritus in Law. Hamilton was chair of the Co-op Board from 1989 to 2001, and was in large measure responsible for the Co-op’s uncommon growth and profitability during that period.

The $10,000 Grand Prize winner of the Hamilton Book Award was:

Shirley E. Thompson, Department of American Studies
“Exiles at Home: The Struggle to Become American in Creole New Orleans” (Harvard University Press)

There were also 4 winners who took home $3,000 runner-up prizes:

Oscar G. Brockett, Department of Theatre and Dance
“Making the Scene: A History of Stage Design and Technology in Europe and the United States” Published by Tobin Theatre Arts Fund (University of Texas Press)

Huaiyin Li,
Department of History
“Village China under Socialism and Reform: A Micro-History, 1948-2008”
(Stanford University Press)

Robin D. Moore, Butler School of Music
“Music in the Hispanic Caribbean” (Oxford University Press)

Richard R. Valencia, Department of Educational Psychology
“Chicano Students and the Courts: The Mexican American Legal Struggle for Educational Equality” (New York University Press)

Faculty Book Celebration Honors L. Michael White’s “Scripting Jesus”

9780061228797Christian history scholar L. Michael White will discuss his book “Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite,” (Harper Collins, May 2010) at a faculty book celebration party hosted by the Department of Religious Studies 5-7 p.m., Wednesday Oct. 29 in Mezes Hall Auditorium..

The gospel stories of Jesus have shaped the beliefs of billions of Christians and deserve to be studied seriously. In “Scripting Jesus,” L. Michael White proposes to do just that — to take them seriously as stories.

He argues that in order to understand the earliest gospels one must look at them the way they were originally intended, rather than newspaper-like historical accounts in any modern sense. Instead, they were intended to be read aloud or performed as stories of faith, which were told and retold, edited and reedited, for the greatest effect.

In “Scripting Jesus,” White examines what the gospel stories meant to people in ancient times and offers insights for how people can read the stories today. Carefully examining the complex and sometimes-conflicting narratives of the gospels, White explains how the gospel writers of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John had a specific audience in mind and a particular perspective to advance.

“White’s hands-on knowledge of archaeology, his broad knowledge of the literature of the Greco-Roman world and his mastery of scholarship in several different areas all combine to make this a rich and illuminating book,” says Wayne A. Meeks, the Woolsey Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Yale University.

White is the Ronald Nelson Smith Chair in Classics and Christian Origins and director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins at The University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of “From Jesus to Christianity” and was featured in two award-winning PBS Frontline documentaries, “From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians” and “Apocalypse!,” for which he also was principal historical consultant and co-writer.

In celebration of White’s book, the Department of Religious Studies will host a panel discussion featuring commentary from Steve Friesen, the Boyer Chair in Biblical Studies, and Martha Newman, chair of the Department of Religious Studies.

The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

Booking it This Weekend

2010_posterWhether you are looking to find your next read or just a fun activity for another gorgeous weekend in Austin, Texas look no further than the Texas Book Festival. Annually, it celebrates Texas authors’ contributions to the culture of the state and nation — and it is a fantastic way to contribute to the state’s libraries. The festival boasts more than 200 authors attending each year, many from The University of Texas at Austin. It regularly draws crowds of more than 40,000 visitors that come to hear their favorite Texas writers read their work, sign their books and participate in panel discussions. While most events are at the Capitol, some will be held in surrounding locations. Check out the official book festival website for a complete schedule of  Oct. 16-17 happenings.