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Huda Al-Marashi

Huda Al-Marashi
View a video interview with Huda at http://vimeo.com/47089522

How did you get introduced to your craft? What made you choose it as a profession?
I recently reconnected with a friend from eighth grade, and she asked me if I had become a writer. I couldn't believe that my interest in writing was something obvious, something someone would actually remember about me. It had taken me so long to figure it out myself. Growing up, the only thing I heard about being a writer was that it wasn't a real job and that it was so hard to make it you'd be wise to pursue something else. I never allowed myself to contemplate writing as a career, but I never stopped thinking about it either. When I read beautiful writing I was envious and I wished that I too could connect my thoughts to words. It took me until 2005 to sign up for my first on-line writing class. A year later, we moved to Cleveland, and I met Neal Chandler at the CSU Public Fiction workshop. He told me I had a story to tell, and he encouraged me to keep writing. I've been working more or less every day since.

What are some things that have influenced you or your work?
September 11th and the war in Iraq transformed me on so many levels. For the first time, those events made me feel as if there was a cost to not writing. Muslims were America's new enemy, and Iraqis were faceless casualties whose numbers were rising. I believed writing could change that. Our stories make us human, and I hoped that telling my story would complicate the media's images of Muslims and Iraqis.

How do you generate new ideas?
My ideas come from areas of conflict in my own life. I write primarily about the immigrant experience, and I try to show the constant tension between old and new world values that is such an integral part of being from another place. Religion, the struggle to maintain a native language and negotiating relationships with an extended family, these are all things I struggle with daily.

Why have you chosen Cuyahoga County as a place to live and work?
We moved to Cuyahoga County six years ago for my husband's work, but we stayed for a number of reasons. My husband and I are so pleased with our children's schools, the libraries, and the lack of traffic. We both grew up spending hours in the car, and we love the convenience of our small, well-planned suburb that allows us to take care of so much in town. I also feel very fortunate to have found such an amazing community of writers; two of the writers I work very closely with live within three miles of my home. And we also feel very comfortable in Cleveland as Middle Easterners. My husband and I were the only Arab children in our schools, and we are both so happy that this is an experience our children do not have to repeat.

What is your favorite place, event or "hidden gem" in greater Cleveland?
My family loves to spend the afternoon at a MetroPark and then end it with a treat from Mitchells or Main Street Cupcakes. Whenever our relatives visit from out-of-state, they ask to be taken to both of those places. They can't believe we have such amazing desserts so close to home.