Laila Lalami (Arabic: ليلى العلمي, born 1968) is a Moroccan American novelist and essayist.
Lalami was born and raised in Rabat, Morocco, where she earned her B.A. in English from Université Mohammed V. In 1990, she received a British Council fellowship to study in England and completed a M.A. in Linguistics at University College London. After graduating she returned to Morocco and worked briefly as a journalist and commentator. In 1992 she moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California, from which she later graduated with a Ph.D. in Linguistics.
Lalami began writing fiction and nonfiction in English in 1996. She has published literary criticism and political essays in The Boston Globe, Boston Review, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, and elsewhere.
Her debut collection of stories, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, was released in the fall of 2005 and has since been translated into six languages. Her first novel, Secret Son, was published in the spring of 2009 and was longlisted for the Orange Prize. Her novel, The Moor's Account, is based on the true story of the first black explorer of America and the Narváez expedition.
Lalami is the recipient of an Oregon Literary Arts grant and a Fulbright Fellowship. She was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader in 2009.
She is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside.
- The Wall Street Journal Best Books, The Moor's Account, 2014
- NPR Best Books, The Moor's Account, 2014
- The New York Times Notable Books, The Moor's Account, 2014
- Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Books, The Moor's Account, 2014
- Elizabeth George Foundation "Women Authoring Change" Fellowship, 2013.
- Lannan Foundation Residency Fellowship, 2012.
- Orange Prize longlist, 2010.
- Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, Finalist, 2009.
- Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum, 2009.
- Fulbright Fellowship, 2007.
- Fletcher Pratt Fellowship in Fiction, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, 2006.
- Oregon Book Award, Finalist, 2006.
- Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship in Fiction, 2006.
- Caine Prize for African Writing, Finalist, 2006.
- John Gardner Fiction Prize, Finalist, 2006.
- Morocco-British Council Literary Prize for the Short Story, 2003.
- British Council Fellowship, 1990.