Life

Fadia Faqir was born in Amman, Jordan, in 1956, the year of independence. She was educated at Jabal Al-Taj elementary and primary schools until she was fifteen then went to Queen Zain al-Sharaf School in Jabal Amman.

 

She read English Language and Literature at the University of Jordan between 1979-1983 and then worked as a freelance reporter for The Jerusalem Star, a Jordanian weekly in English.

 

She went to Britain in 1984 to study creative writing at Lancaster University. In 1985, she was awarded an MA in Creative Writing. She went back to Jordan determined to study classical Arabic and to begin writing in her mother tongue. She worked as a media coordinator for the Royal Academy for Islamic Civilisation Research (Al al-Bayt Foundation) and the Ministry of Higher Education.

 
In 1986, she returned to the UK to pursue a Ph.D. in creative writing. In 1990 the University of East Anglia awarded her the first Ph.D. in Critical and Creative Writing in the UK.

 

She studied under great teachers and writers in Jordan and the UK: Khawla al-Ashhab, Queen Zain Al-Sharaf School; Muhammad Shaheen, Jordan University; Antony Crocker, British Council; David Craig, Lancaster University; Lorna Sage, Malcolm Bradbury and Jon Cook, East Anglia University; and Angela Carter, whose premature death saddened her.

She worked as an instructor of Arabic language at Exeter University, then the Middle East Centre, St Antony's College, Oxford University. Between September 1994-September 2004 she worked as lecturer at the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Durham University, where she taught language, modern Arabic literature, and gender studies. In 2004, she quit her job to became a fulltime writer. She has written most most morning ever since.

The ideas for her first novel, Nisanit (Penguin, 1990), began germinating when she was a reporter for the Star. Nisanit is the story of three people: a Palestinian guerrilla fighter, an Arab woman and an Israeli jailer, all accidental anti-heroes and victims of history and geography. Her second novel Pillars of Salt (Quartet Books, 1996, translated into German, Dutch and Danish, and is being translated into Arabic) was born out of sheer nostalgia and a futile attempt to preserve the past. Set during the British Mandate of Jordan, it offers a feminist vision of Orientalism. Her third novel, My Name is Salma (Transworld, 2007, translated into 12 languages), is a portrayal of a woman's courage, who had to flee her country after being accused of dishonouring her family, a misconduct punishable by death, in the face of insurmountable odds. Her next novel, At the Midnight Kitchen, was not published. Post 9/11, she was constantly asked to comment on that event and its aftermath so she returned to politics in her fifth novel, Willow Trees Don’t Weep (Quercus Books, 2014). Najwa, the main character, who has nothing but hate for her father, who abandoned her when she was three years old, embarks on an epic journey that takes her through new dangers to find him. She just finished her sixth novel, Petra, Mon Amour.

In January 2005, she was awarded an honorary fellowship at St Mary’s College, Durham University. Since 2009 she held a creative writing fellowship at St Aidan’s College, where she teaches creative writing. She is a trustee of Durham City of Sanctuary, a charity that welcomes refugees in the North East of England, and a co-founder of the Banipal Visiting Writer Fellowship.

Her seventh attempt at growing jasmine in Britain has finally succeeded. Her friend Gwyneth Cole gave her a cutting and she planted it in her garden in Durham. It has grown into a beautiful tree. Her family has grown too.