author spotlight: Diana Abu-Jaber

Sometimes, even the most certain paths in life can take a different turn, explains Diana Abu-Jaber in her thought-provoking “What Comes True.”

You once told me–years ago, when we were both in graduate school–that you’d always felt there was something ‘a little bit selfish’ about people who never had children. At the time, I suspected I was just that selfish. You remember what my father was like–training his daughters to be caretakers, to cook, open the house, invite the world in. The problem, though, is he didn’t teach us that sometimes you have to close that door. I’d sensed that one day I’d have to make a choice: children or writing. I’d grown up in a world of limited resources, never enough time or money for much beyond immediate necessities. For my hard-working parents, that meant there was just enough to keep the family going. For me, there would be just enough for my work. But somewhere along the line, something changed. I turned forty and started to want more. I read a biography of a famous writer and learned that her greatest regret in life was that she’d never had kids. These words gave me a chill of recognition. At my readings, people asked if I had kids: I felt increasingly sad each time I said no. One day, someone in the audience answered for me, saying, “Her books are her children.” At that moment, I realized: I didn’t want my books to be my children…”

DIANA ABU-JABER’s latest novel, Origin, was named one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post, and it won the 2008 Florida Book Award bronze medal. Her memoir, The Language of Baklava, won the Northwest Booksellers Award. Her novel Crescent won the PEN Center Award for Literary Fiction and the American Book Award. It was also named a Notable Book of the Year by The Christian Science Monitor. She teaches at Portland State University and divides her time between Portland and Miami. Her website is


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