The Fresno State English professor who lashed out at the late Barbara Bush, calling the former first lady an “amazing racist,” has made a mark as an author writing about her personal life and Arab-American heritage.
Randa Jarrar was born in Chicago in 1978, according to her Wiki page, to an Egyptian-Greek mother and Palestinian father. She grew up in Kuwait and Egypt, then returned with her family to the U.S. in 1991 after the Persian Gulf War.
According to Fresno State officials, Jarrar has been on leave this semester from the university, where her instruction includes creative writing. She has been a visible part of the local literary scene and was scheduled to be the headline author at the LitHop event at Fresno City College on Saturday. Wednesday afternoon, she withdrew.
“Many of my undergraduates are brown: Latinos, Asian Americans, Muslim Americans,” Jarrar said in a 2014 interview with the Institute for Middle East Understanding. “They’re first-generation college students Or they’re children of migrant workers. Or they work full time, and parent.”
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Her books include “A Map of Home,” a collection of stories about lives of Arab women, and “Him, Me, Muhammad Ali,” described on her website as “a collection ... featuring journalists and kids and queers and pregnant girls and birds who are arrested for spying.” Jarrar won the 2014 Lannan Residency Program fellowship award.
In an undated interview with the Arab literature project Beirut39, Jarrar said: “’A Map of Home’ is the fictionalization of mostly my grappling with my loyalty to my parents and culture.
“If I wrote it another way, it would have been about my sexuality. If I wrote it another way, it would have been about my parents’ eating disorders and how they forced them on me for years. ... I chose to limit my perspective and focus on the voice. Everything else followed from there.”
A Los Angeles Times review of “Him, Me, Muhammad Ali” described the book as “sharp and irreverent, sometimes even unapologetically rude.”
Essays by Jarrar have appeared in places such as The New York Times Magazine, Utne Reader, Salon, and Guernica.
A 2012 essay for Guernica described a trip to Israel in which she said she was detained, taken by airport authorities to “the Arab room,” and denied entry.
Jarrar also is listed as a Buzzfeed contributor. An essay published last year is titled “Being a Bad Muslim Helped Me Get Out of a Bad Marriage.”
Jarrar studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College, receiving a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and a master’s of fine art from the University of Michigan.