Leila Aboulela

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Leila Aboulela
Leila Aboulela (2010).jpg
Leila Abouela in 2010
Born 1964
Cairo, Egypt
Alma mater University of Khartoum and London School of Economics
Subjects Economics and Statistics
Notable awards Caine Prize for African Writing; Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards

Leila Aboulela (born 1964), Arabic 'ليلى ابوالعلا' is a Sudanese writer who writes in English. Her latest novel, The Kindness of Enemies is inspired by the life of Imam Shamil, who united the tribes of the Caucasus to fight against Russian Imperial expansion. Leila's novel Lyrics Alley, was Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards and short-listed for a Regional Commonwealth Writers Prize. She is also the author of the novels The Translator (a New York Times 100 Notable Book of the Year) and Minaret. All three novels were long-listed for the Orange Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Award. Leila Aboulela won the Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story, The Museum, included in the collection Coloured Lights which went on to be short-listed for the Macmillan/Silver PEN award. Aboulela’s work has been translated into fourteen languages and included in publications such as Granta, The Washington Post and the Guardian. BBC Radio has adapted her work extensively and broadcast a number of her plays including The Mystic Life and the historical drama The Lion of Chechnya. The five-part radio serialization of The Translator was short-listed for the RIMA (Race In the Media Award). Aboulela grew up in Khartoum and now lives in Aberdeen.

Personal life[edit]

Born in 1964 in Cairo, Egypt to an Egyptian mother[1] and a Sudanese father, Aboulela grew up in Khartoum, Sudan, where she attended the Khartoum American School and Sister School. She graduated from Khartoum University in 1985 with a degree in Economics and was awarded an MSc and an MPhil degree in Statistics from the London School of Economics.[2]

In 1990 Aboulela moved to Aberdeen, where she started to write while looking after her children. Between 2000 and 2012, she lived in Jakarta, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha. She now lives again in Aberdeen. [3]

Literary career[edit]

She was awarded the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2000 for her short story The Museum included in her collection of short stories Coloured Lights. Her novel The Translator was nominated for the Orange Prize and was chosen as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times in 2006. Her second novel, Minaret, was nominated for the Orange Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Award. Her third novel, Lyrics Alley, is set in the Sudan of the 1950s and was long-listed for the Orange Prize 2011. Lyrics Alley was the Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize -Europe and S.E Asia.


Prizes and awards[edit]

  • 2000 Caine Prize for African Writing, "The Museum"
  • 2000 Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award (shortlist), "The Translator"
  • 2002 PEN Macmillan Macmillan Silver PEN Award (shortlist), "Coloured Lights"
  • 2003 Race and Media Award (shortlist - radio drama serialisation), "The Translator"
  • 2011 Short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers Prize- Europe and S.E Asia, "Lyrics Alley"
  • 2011 Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards, "Lyrics Alley"


  1. ^ http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2001/542/bo4.htm
  2. ^ Chambers, Claire (June 2009). "An interview with Leila Aboulela". Contemporary Women's Writing, special issue: Diaspora (Oxford Journals) 3 (1): 86–102. doi:10.1093/cww/vpp003. 
  3. ^ Sethi, Anita (4 June 2005). "Keep the faith". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 

Further reading[edit]


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