Author Hedy Habra will read from her recent collection of poetry, Tea in Heliopolis (Press 53 2013), and her award-winning story collection, Flying Carpets (Interlink 2013), from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the newly opened Granada Books, 1224 State St. in Santa Barbara.
According to Diane Wakowski, author of Emerald Ice, “The poems of Tea in Heliopolis form the story of a family, sometimes tragic, sometimes searingly beautiful, and always exotic, seen through the eyes of a painter ... Moving through life in Egypt, to Beirut, then to America, with a kind of post-Newtonian sense of everything happening simultaneously, the chronicle captures the bravery it takes to remember and yet experience a beauty transcendent to pain. This is a remarkable book of poetry.”
Flying Carpets is the 2013 Winner of the Arab American Book Award’s Honorable Mention in Fiction. According to Stuart Dybek, author of Sailing With Magellan, Flying Carpets is “a collection of
enchantments and wonders charmingly recounted, deeply imagined and composed with lyrical exactitude. It belongs to that rare tradition of books whose spells grow increasingly seductive with each new story.”
Flying Carpets is a collection in the grand tradition of Arab storytelling. In it, Habra masterfully waves her writing wand and takes us on a journey as we read about people and places far away and encounter temples and mountain villages, gliding boats and fragrant kitchens, flaming fish and rich tapestries.
The 21 stories in Flying Carpets recover lost, partially forgotten and imaginary spaces, progressing from the concrete to the universal. The first sections move between Egypt and Lebanon with a touch of magic realism. Characters become less rooted in time and space in the second half of the collection as the dreamlike elements intensify. Throughout the book, storytelling and fortunetelling evoke a mythical past that is at the same time lost yet alive: love, loss, the yearning for alternate worlds, and the need to reinvent oneself through art permeate its pages.
For Habra, inspiration for writing Tea in Heliopolis and Flying Carpets “came from a sense of displacement, of belonging to so many places and cultures, all of which made it necessary to conjure up some points of reference in order to keep them alive, as one would in a photo album. But unlike photographs, these recollections, stemming from selective memory, are filtered by the imagination, become transcendent and are converted into symbols.”
Habra was born in Egypt and is of Lebanese origin. In addition to Tea in Heliopolis and Flying Carpets, she is the author of a book of literary criticism, Mundos alternos y artísticos en Vargas Llosa. She has an MA and an MFA in English and an MA and Ph.D. in Spanish literature, all from Western Michigan University. Her multilingual work appears in numerous journals and anthologies, including Connotation Press, Nimrod, The New York Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Cutthroat, Bitter Oleander, Diode, Puerto del Sol, Cider Press Review, Poet Lore, Dinarzad’s Children 2 and Inclined to Speak.