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February 1, 2011 - GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN (February 1, 2011) – The 2010-2011 Aquinas College Contemporary Writers Series hosts Diana Abu-Jaber, Ph.D. on Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. The reading will be held in the Wege Center Ballroom and is free and open to the public.

Abu-Jaber, born in Syracuse New York to an American mother and a Jordanian father, grew up with a constant struggle between two racial and cultural identities. Her novels, which include Arabian Jazz, considered by many to be the first mainstream Arab-American novel, and Crescent, were inspired by her childhood and follow Arab protagonists who face the difficulties of living in America while maintaining their unique cultural identity. Abu-Jaber also demonstrated versatility in the recently published, Origin, a contemporary murder mystery novel and The Language of Baklava, a book of memoirs.

Arabian Jazz, which won the 1994 Oregon Book Award, was followed by numerous awards for Abu-Jaber, including the 2004 PEN Center USA Award for Literary Fiction and the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award for Crescent. In addition to her novels, nonfiction memoirs, and numerous essays, Abu-Jaber speaks on writing and creativity, multiculturalism and identity, women’s writing, food and creativity, and the art of the novel and the memoir.

Currently, Abu-Jaber is an associate professor of English at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. She is also working on her next book project for young adults, Silverworld.

The Aquinas College Contemporary Writers Series was founded by a grant from Tony Foster, M.D. ’73 and Linda Nemec Foster ’72. The series, launched in 1997, brings well-known authors to Aquinas College for public readings and workshops with students. For information on the Series, call (616) 632-2127 or visit the Contemporary Writers Series website.