Mortada Gzar Discusses “I’m In Seattle, Where Are You?”

June 22, 2021 @ 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Online (see listing)

Join us for a discussion of Gzar’s new memoir, a moving tale of love and resilience from this award-winning Iraqi writer. Registration is required.

Click here to register via EventBrite..

Gzar will appear in conversation with the book’s translator, William Hutchins. The conversation will be moderated by Christopher Merrill, Director of University of Iowa’s International Writing Program.

The event is presented in partnership with Seattle City of Literature, Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, University of Iowa International Writing Program, and Elliott Bay Book Company. This event is supported by The Seattle Public Library Foundation. Thanks to media sponsor The Seattle Times.

Closed captioning will be available at the event. The program will be recorded and posted on SPL’s YouTube after the event.


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.


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.

William Maynard Hutchins has translated many works of Arabic literature into English, including Return of the Spirit by Tawfiq al-Hakim, The Cairo Trilogy by Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, and The Fetishists by Ibrahim al-Koni. His translation of New Waw by al-Koni won the ALTA National Prose Translation Award for 2015. A three-time National Endowment for the Arts fellow, Hutchins’s translations from Arabic have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Banipal: Magazine of Modern Arab Literature, and Words Without Borders, as well as elsewhere. He holds degrees from Yale University and the University of Chicago and has taught subjects ranging from English and Arabic to philosophy and religious studies at the Gerard Institute in Sidon, Lebanon; the University of Ghana; the American University in Cairo; and Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.

Christopher Merrill has published six collections of poetry, including Watch Fire, for which he received the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; many edited volumes and translations; and six books of nonfiction, among them, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars, Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain, The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War, and Self-Portrait with Dogwood. His writings have been translated into nearly forty languages; his journalism appears widely; his honors include a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the French government, numerous translation awards, and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial and Ingram Merrill Foundations. As director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa since 2000, Merrill has conducted cultural diplomacy missions to more than fifty countries. He served on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO from 2011-2018, and in April 2012 President Barack Obama appointed him to the National Council on the Humanities.

View in Catalog: I’m In Seattle, Where Are You? by Mortada Gzar

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