Born in a public library in Morocco where his father was a janitor, Abdellah Taïa is an acclaimed novelist and filmmaker who lives in Paris, but sets his latest novel in his home country. With deep lyricism and erotic energy, Infidels follows the life of Jallal, a young gay Muslim who is the son of a prostitute witch doctor. The mother and son struggle as outsiders inside their Islamic world until Jallal moves to Belgium and becomes a jihadist. Taia discusses this powerful story about love and belonging with Steven Reigns, the first City Poet of West Hollywood.
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In 1973, Abdellah Taïa was born in the public library of Rabat in Morocco, where his father was the janitor and where his family lived until he was two years old. He is the author of six novels, including Salvation Army and An Arab Melancholia, both published by Semiotext(e), and Infidels. His novel Le jour du roi, about the death of Morocco’s King Hassan II, won the 2010 Prix de Flore. He also directed and wrote the screenplay for the 2013 film adaptation of Salvation Army. Taïa made history in 2006 by coming out in his country, where homosexuality is illegal. His commitment to the defense of homosexuals in Muslim countries has made him one of the most prominent Arab writers of his generation—both “a literary transgressor and cultural paragon,” according to Interview magazine. He has lived in Paris since 1998.
Steven Reigns is a Los Angeles-based poet, educator, and was appointed the first City Poet Laureate of West Hollywood (2014-2016). Alongside over a dozen chapbooks, he has published the collections Inheritance and Your Dead Body is My Welcome Mat. He holds a BA in Creative Writing from the University of South Florida, a Master of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, and is a ten-time recipient of City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs’ Artist in Residency Grant. He edited My Life is Poetry, featuring his students in the first-ever autobiographical poetry workshop for LGBT seniors, and has taught writing workshops around the country to LGBT youth and people living with HIV. Currently he is touring The Gay Rub, an exhibition of rubbings from LGBT landmarks.