Laila El-Haddad (Arabic: ليلى الحداد) is an award-winning Palestinian author and public speaker based in the United States. She frequently lectures on lectures on Gaza, the intersection of food and politics, and contemporary Islam. She us also a policy advisor with al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network.
She is the author of Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between (in India, Gaza Mama: Politics and Parenting in Palestine), co-author of the critically acclaimed The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey and co-editor of Gaza Unsilenced.
Personal life and background
El-Haddad was born in Kuwait in 1978. She was raised primarily in Saudi Arabia, where her parents worked, and she spent her summers in Gaza. She traveled to the United States to attend Duke University, and then went on to receive her MPP from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where she was awarded the Clinton Scholarship for Palestinian graduate students. She then moved back to Gaza to work as a journalist while her husband Yassine Daoud remained in the US; since he could not come visit her as a Palestinian refugee, she would often travel back to the US to visit. Because of her lack of US citizenship or documentation other than Palestinian travel documents, she was often stopped, and once, she was stranded in Cairo for 55 days with her son. The experience of constantly waiting, whether for documentation or for borders to open, informs her take on the issues that Palestinians face today. In 2006, she moved to the US to be with Yassine, leaving her parents in Gaza, and in 2008, when Israel launched a three-week-long attack on Gaza, she kept in close contact with her parents from across the ocean as they were trapped in Gaza City.
El-Haddad is married with one son, Yousuf, and two daughters, Noor and Malaak.
Life and career
From 2003-2007, El-Haddad was the Gaza stringer for the al-Jazeera English website. She was praised for her extensive behind the scenes coverage of the Gaza Disengagement in 2005 and Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006.
Since November 2004, she has authored an award winning blog formerly called Raising Yousuf: A Diary of a Mother Under Occupation and now known as Gaza Mom. The website won the Brass Crescent Award for "best Mideast blog", was nominated as best Mideast blog in the 2007 Bloggies Award, was selected as Blog of the Day by www.BlogAwards.com, and was chosen as a Blog of Note by www.Blogspot.com. In 2010, she "curated" her work, compiling choice blog entries and other writing into a book, Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between.
El-Haddad writes about her daily life with a wry sense of humor, making the situation that Gazans and Palestinians face much more personal and portraying Palestinians in a more sympathetic light than they are often presented in. She has been published in The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, and The Electronic Intifada, among others, and she has been a guest on al Jazeera, NPR stations, CNN, and the BBC.
El-Haddad has published two books. Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between, published in 2010, is a compilation of El-Haddad's blogs and other writing about her daily life as she covers the story of Gaza while living it and trying to explain it to her children. In 2013, she co-authored The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey with Maggie Schmitt; this cookbook of recipes from across the Gaza Strip both explores the food heritage of the region and tells the stories of Gazan women and men to portray the reality of Palestinian life from a personal perspective. She was also featured on the famous award winning CNN travel show 'Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain' 'Jerusalem Episode'. In it she shows Bourdain around Gaza's rich food culture.