Leila Aboulela in 2010
|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 lives in Scotland and writes in English. Her most recent books are the novel Bird Summons (2019) and the short-story collection Elsewhere, Home which was the winner of the 2018 Saltire Fiction Book of the Year Award. Her novel The Kindness of Enemies (2015), was inspired by the life of Imam Shamil, who united the tribes of the Caucasus to fight against Russian Imperial expansion. Aboulela's 2011 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 15 languages and included in publications such as Harper's Magazine, Granta, The Washington Post and The Guardian. BBC Radio has adapted her work extensively and broadcast a number of her plays, including The Insider, The Mystic Life and the historical drama The Lion of Chechnya. The five-part radio serialization of her 1999 novel The Translator was short-listed for the RIMA (Race In the Media Award). Aboulela grew up in Khartoum and now lives in Aberdeen.
Born in 1964 in Cairo, Egypt to an Egyptian mother and a Sudanese father, Aboulela moved at the age of six weeks to Khartoum, Sudan, where she lived continuously until 1987. As a child she attended the Khartoum American School and the Sisters' School, a private Catholic high school, where she learned English. She later attended the University of Khartoum, graduating in 1985 with a degree in Economics. Aboulela was awarded an M.Sc. and an MPhil degree in Statistics from the London School of Economics.
In 1990 Aboulela moved to Aberdeen with her husband and children, a move she cites as the inspiration for her first novel, The Translator. Aboulela began writing in 1992 while working as a lecturer in Aberdeen College and later as a research assistant in Aberdeen University. Between 2000 and 2012, Aboulela lived in Jakarta, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha. In 2012, she returned to live in Aberdeen.
Aboulela is a devout Muslim, and her faith informs much of her written work.
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.
Aboulela cites Arab authors Tayeb Salih and Naguib Mahfouz, as well as Ahdaf Soueif, Jean Rhys, Anita Desai, and Doris Lessing, as her literary influences. She also acknowledges the influence of Scottish writers such as Alan Spence and Robin Jenkins.
Among her works, her second novel Minaret (2005) has drawn more readers' and critical attention compared to other works. Her novel Minaret singles out her as one of the influential authors of the new wave of British Muslim writers.
Her collection of short stories Elsewhere, Home won the Saltire Fiction Book of the Year Award in 2018. Her work has been translated into 15 languages.
- 1999: The Translator, Grove Press, Black Cat (2006), ISBN 0-8021-7026-9 - translated into Arabic by Elkhatim Adl'an
- 2001: Coloured Lights (a collection of short stories)
- 2005: Minaret, Grove Press, Black Cat (2005), ISBN 0-8021-7014-5 -translated into Arabic by Badreldin Hashimi
- 2011: Lyrics Alley, Grove Press (2011) -translated into Arabic by Badreldin Hashimi
- 2015: The Kindness of Enemies, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (2015)- translated into Arabic by Badreldin Hashimi
- 2018 Elsewhere, Home, Telegram Books (2018)
- 2019 Bird Summons, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (2019)
Prizes and awards
- 2000 Caine Prize for African Writing, for "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
- 2018 Saltire Fiction Book of the Year Award, Elsewhere, Home
- "Leila Aboulela - Literature". literature.britishcouncil.org. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
- "Biography". www.leila-aboulela.com. Leila Aboulela. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- Chambers, Claire (1 June 2009). "An Interview with Leila Aboulela". Contemporary Women's Writing. 3 (1): 86–102. doi:10.1093/cww/vpp003. ISSN 1754-1484.
- Dictionary of African Biography, Volume 2. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2012. pp. 48–49. ISBN 978-0-19-538207-5.
- "The Translator - Inspiration". www.leila-aboulela.com. Leila Aboulela. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- Sethi, Anita (4 June 2005). "Keep the faith". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
- "About Leila". www.leila-aboulela.com. Leila Aboulela. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
- Sufian, Abu. "Aboulela's Minaret : A New Understanding of Diasporic Muslim Women in the West". The Criterion. Retrieved 15 April 2017.
- "Leila Aboulela". www.leila-aboulela.com. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
- Sufian, Abu (2014). "Aboulela's Minaret : A New Understanding of Diasporic Muslim Women in the West". The Criterion. 5 (3). Retrieved 2015-04-24.