1978 (age 39–40)|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Sarah Lawrence College (BA)|
University of Texas (MA)
University of Michigan (MFA)
Randa Jarrar (born 1978) is an American writer and translator. Her first novel, the coming-of-age story A Map of Home (2008), won her the Hopwood Award, and an Arab-American Book Award. Since then she has published short stories, essays, and the collection, Him, Me, Muhammad Ali (2016). She teaches creative writing in an MFA program at California State University at Fresno where she is currently on leave. In 2018, Jarrar attracted public attention for making statements critical of Barbara Bush on social media following her death.
Randa Jarrar was born in 1978 in Chicago to a Greek-Egyptian mother and a Palestinian father. She grew up in Kuwait and Egypt. After the Gulf War in 1991, she and her family returned to the United States, living in the New York area. Jarrar studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College, receiving an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. She has taught College Writing, Creative Writing, and Arab-American literature. "Fresno State's a majority minority school," she describes. "Many of my undergraduates are brown: Latinos, Asian Americans, Muslim Americans. They're first generation college students. Or they're children of migrant workers. Or they work full time, and parent."
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Jarrar wrote an opinion piece called "Why I Can't Stand White Belly-Dancers", published in Salon in 2014. In this piece, Jarrar said she felt that white women who take part in the art of bellydance are engaging in cultural appropriation and "brown face."
Her commentary was widely criticized; UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh stated, "Maybe telling people that they can’t work in some field because they have the wrong color or ancestry would be ... rats, I don’t know what to call it. If only there were an adjective that could be used to mean 'telling people that they mustn’t do something, because of their race or ethnic origin'".
Atlantic writer Conor Friedersdorf pointed out historical inaccuracies in Jarrar's argument, citing an academic source: "[W]ith regional variations, something like Raqs Sharqi seems to have been known throughout the Mediterranean and certainly flourished in Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean before the arrival of the Arabs in the 7th century". Novelist and comics writer G. Willow Wilson wrote in defense of Jarrar, "When you shimmy around a stage in a hip band and call yourself Aliya Selim and receive praise and encouragement, while the real Aliya Selims are shortening their names to Ally and wondering if their accent is too strong to land that job interview, if the boss will look askance at their headscarf, if the kids at school are going to make fun of their children, guess what: you are exercising considerable privilege."
In response to these criticisms, Jarrar wrote a follow-up to her piece, titled "I Still Can't Stand White Bellydancers".
Barbara Bush comments
On April 17, 2018, following the death of former first lady Barbara Bush, Jarrar described the former first lady as "a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal. Fuck outta here with your nice words", referring to Bush's son, former President George W. Bush. Jarrar later boasted that she will "never be fired" for her harsh words, because she has tenure at California State University at Fresno.
Suicide prevention hotline
Amid criticisms, Jarrar provided a telephone number on her Twitter account as if it was her own contact number, stating "If you really wanna reach me, here's my number ok?" However, the phone number that she provided was that of an emergency suicide/crisis hotline at Arizona State University.
The resulting deluge of thousands of spam callers overwhelmed the mental health crisis center's ability to take calls. Two days after Jarrar's tweet, the mental health crisis center continued to receive between 50 to 70 calls per hour.
California State University at Fresno administration response
California State University at Fresno president Joseph Castro responded to widespread public outrage, saying "Professor Jarrar’s expressed personal views and commentary are obviously contrary to the core values of our University, which include respect and empathy for individuals with divergent points of view". Fresno State confirmed that she was on leave from the university at the time the controversial comments were made.
At a news conference, university provost Lynnette Zelezny confirmed that Jarrar's tenure would not protect her from termination, but did not specify whether termination was appropriate at the time. On April 25, 2018 News Metropolis reported that a Change.org petition to remove Jarrar from her position at Fresno State University had received over 60,000 signatures.
On July 27, 2018, Jarrar tweeted, "At some point, all of us in the literary community must DEMAND that white editors resign. It’s time to STEP DOWN and hand over the positions of power. We don’t have to wait for them to [f***] up. The fact that they hold these positions is [f***] up enough."
- 2004 Million Writers Award for best short story online 
- 2007 Hopwood Award for Best Novel
- 2009 Arab American Book Award
- 2016 Story Prize Spotlight Award 
- 2017 American Book Award
- A Map of Home: A Novel Hardcover: Other Press 2008. ISBN 1590512723.
- A Map of Home: A Novel Paperback: Penguin 2009. ISBN 0143116266.
- Him, Me, Muhammad Ali Paperback: Sarabande Books 2016. ISBN 9781941411315
- Words Without Borders: The World Through the Eyes of Writers, Alane Salierno Mason, Dedi Felman, Samantha Schnee (eds), Anchor Books, March 2007, ISBN 9781400079759
- Beirut39 Bloomsbury 2010
- Watchlist: 32 short stories by persons of interest O/R Books 2016 ISBN 9781936787418
- The Year Of The Revolutionary New Bread-making Machine by Hassan Daoud, 2007. ISBN 9781846590269, Published by Telegram, Paperback
- Jo Glanville, ed. (2006). Qissat: short stories by Palestinian women. Telegram. ISBN 9781846590122.
- "Randa Jarrar". www.fresnostate.edu. Retrieved 2018-04-20.
- Anteola, Bryant-Jon. "Fresno State professor stirs outrage, calls Barbara Bush an 'amazing racist'". The Fresno Bee. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
- "Randa Jarrar | Penguin Random House". PenguinRandomhouse.com. Retrieved 2015-08-06.
- "Randa Jarrar: Author and Professor". Institute for Middle East Understanding. IMEU. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
- "Why I can't stand white belly dancers". Retrieved 2015-08-20.
- cl_admin (11 March 2014). "ICYMI: Belly Dancing When You're a White Woman".
- Friedersdorf, Conor. "In Praise of Polyglot Culture—and Multicultural Belly Dancing".
- Buchanan, Matthew. "In Defense (Sort Of) Of Randa Jarrar". gwillowwilson.com. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
- "I still can't stand white belly dancers". Retrieved 2015-09-30.
- Mays, Mackenzie; Tehee, Joshua (April 19, 2018). "'Where's the lie?' Authors rally behind Fresno State prof who called Barbara Bush racist". Fresno Bee. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
- Boroff, David (April 18, 2018). "University professor slams Barbara Bush as 'amazing racist'". MSN. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
- Jr, Cleve R. Wootson; Wong, Herman (2018-04-19). "After calling Barbara Bush an 'amazing racist,' a professor taunts critics: 'I will never be fired' citing the fact that she has tenure". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
- "Fresno State professor calls Barbara Bush 'amazing racist' after her death in controversial tweet". ABC30 Fresno. 2018-04-18. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
- Anteola, Bryant-Jon. "'Here's my number': Fresno State professor's post floods Arizona State crisis line with calls". AZ Central. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
- "Professor's tweet about Barbara Bush was 'beyond free speech,' Fresno State president says". Retrieved 20 April 2018.
- Appleton, Aleksandra (April 24, 2018). "This is what Randa Jarrar has to say about her Barbara Bush tweets". Fresno Bee. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- Paiella, Gabriella (April 24, 2018). "Fresno State Professor Randa Jarrar Speaks Out First Time". New York. Retrieved 24 April 2018. Also online as Paiella, Gabriella (April 24, 2018). "Fresno State Professor Speaks Out for First Time Since Barbara Bush Backlash". Yahoo!. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- "Over 60.000 People Sign Petition To Remove Randa Jarrar From Fresno State University For Disrespecting Barbara Bush". Retrieved 2018-04-25.
- "storySouth Million Writers Award". www.storysouth.com. Retrieved 2016-03-25.
- "Hopwood writing awards presented to 34". Lsa.umich.edu.
- 2009 Arab American Book Award Winners, Retrieved April 23, 2018
- "Spotlight Award Winner". The Story Prize. Retrieved 2017-01-31.
- Jefferson Beavers, August 9, 2017, Fresno State News (press release), PROFESSOR AND AUTHOR RANDA JARRAR WINS AMERICAN BOOK AWARD, Retrieved April 23, 2018, "...won the Story Prize Spotlight Award..."
- The Story Prize, 2016, THE 2016 SPOTLIGHT AWARD WINNER: Randa Jarrar, Him, Me, Muhammad Ali (Sarabande Books), Retrieved April 23, 2018