Between the Lines: Etaf Rum Gives Us The Exclusive On Penning Diaspora Stories

Within the diaspora are Arab women trying to find their foothold in their new communities. That is the essence of both of Palestinian-American author Etaf Rum’s books called “A Woman Is No Man” and “Evil Eye”.

The drive behind her work is simple, “as a Palestinian, I feel a responsibility to shed light on the struggles and resilience of Gaza and other Palestinian communities.”

That is the essence of all her work, bringing to light the stories of Palestine in Gaza and across the diaspora. She explores themes of “family, loss, identity, and redemption in the Palestinian diaspora” and pools from her own experience as a Palestinian as well as others around her to fuel her stories.

Through a special conversation, we got to dive deep into the details of her writing process and her success.

A Glimpse Into Rum’s Writing Process

In learning more about Rum as a writer, we tapped into her style and daily routine of bringing stories to life. When she described her routine, she showed how every writer operates within their own clock, “my writing routine isn’t typical, but I try to carve out dedicated time each day to write, often early in the morning or late at night.”

Putting pen to paper requires the writer to be in a certain headspace. Rum creates that space for herself by going through some rituals like “lighting a candle or brewing a cup of coffee or tea before I begin.”

How The Arab World Influences Her Writing

Her writing process also involves pooling inspiration from the world around her. When asked what shapes her work, she rooted it back to her background, “my background shapes my novels by providing a unique perspective on the Palestinian diaspora experience and the complexities of identity.”

That background can be gleaned from the kinds of books she would recommend, whether it’s “I Saw Ramallah” by Mourid Barghouti or the multi-generational story about a Palestinian family called “Mornings in Jenin.”

Luckily, having that connection to the Arab World helped her to create stories that resonated with many across the region. “While I was initially concerned about how Arab audiences would perceive my work, I’ve found that many resonate with the themes and characters in my novels,” she said.

Her Success & Milestones

As a writer, one of the biggest markers of success is when your book becomes a NYT bestseller and that is exactly what happened with Etam’s “A Woman Is No Man.” Having it be her debut novel made the moment even more special, yet the biggest victory for Etam went beyond the book itself:

“Success, to me, is about connecting with readers and telling stories that resonate with them on a deep level. Success is also about freeing yourself from society’s expectations and living outside of social programming”

Etaf Rum

What’s Next?

Bringing our conversation to a close, we had to ask about what to expect from the author in the future. She gave us a glimpse into the upcoming introspective journey she plans to take, “I’m currently on a journey of introspection and expanding my consciousness. I’m focused on delving inward to discover what I truly want beyond societal expectations, allowing me to bring deeper authenticity to my writing.”

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