What’s your new novel about?

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Set in a post-contagion Mideast, ROOM 100 is a 91,000-word speculative novel about a young mother trying to escape the infamous Quarantine Zone with her child. It combines the brisk pace of Middle Eastern genre stories such as Zoe Ferraris’s City of Veils with the upmarket writing style of Hillary Jordan’s When She Woke.

Forty years after a global pandemic, peace and prosperity in Middle East come at a cost—the sick and their descendants, as well as political exiles, are banished to the walled Quarantine Zone. Rabia is a young mother and the daughter of its powerful medical director, and when she threatens to expose her father’s corruption, he sends her away to the Zone.

Rabia takes work in Room 100, the medical clinic at a girls’ school. The school belongs to Hanbal, a thug who governs the neighborhood, and Rabia learns that it’s an asset in a dangerous political game: he’s marrying the girls off to forge alliances against the soldiers in charge. Rabia’s objections put her and her daughter in danger.

She finds an ally in Um Sahar, the school’s headmistress and Hanbal’s own wife. Um Sahar is an ambiguous and powerful political figure, and until now, Rabia has hidden her identity as the daughter of the most hated man in the Zone. But when Um Sahar discovers this, Rabia must choose whom to defend as the situation in the Zone escalates toward all-out revolt: her daughter or the girls whose childhoods are being sacrificed to fight an oppressive political order. ROOM 100 explores what it means to defend or betray one’s gender, and the compromises a mother makes for her child.


And for those of you curious about the old version of the novel, and how the story setup evolved when a great editor got her hands on my manuscript, here’s the synopsis of the novel when it was called SHAHIDA.

SHAHIDA is set in the near-future Gaza Strip. It combines the brisk pace of Middle Eastern mysteries such as Zoe Ferraris’s City of Veils and Matt Rees’s A Grave in Gaza with the intense, interior narration style of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Shunned by her family, Rabia, a disgraced young mother, starts class in Gaza City’s “women’s education program”—a school that trains women as wives, and marries them to graduating men. She needs the marriage to regain custody of her infant daughter, but faces the danger of jail or stoning if she violates the land’s strict, unfamiliar laws.

Yet the school has a covert agenda. Because Rabia already has a child, making her an unlikely candidate for marriage, the dean compels her to join a political club for women. In the club, she embarks on a secret double life that puts her in more danger, but offers hope of eventual escape. She discovers that the women in the club are being trained as shahidat, suicide bombers; but once in, Rabia cannot leave lest she be stoned as a collaborator, and leave her daughter motherless.

Her only escape is a fellow student who offers to help her in exchange for favors to an underground organization. The favors become more dangerous—but also lead to Sami, a resister whom she must learn to trust if she is to survive. As the price of her escape, they make a daring effort to expose the school’s covert agenda, and start a chain reaction that could forever change the land where veils hide all, and where every personal act is also political.

The next novel.

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

As a gay writer unofficially married to a member of the U.S. military, I’ve been preoccupied with the relationship of art, war, and technology for almost nine months. The idea for my next novel resonates with the past writing I have done about the geopolitics of the Middle East, but is something totally new and differently interesting to me.

My plan for the novel is moving toward literary cyberpunk, takes place in New Orleans, could appeal to YA readers, and may possibly work as a series. I’ll say more when I’m done with a solid draft, likely late this year or early 2013. For now, the premise beneath my thought experiment is Art and war are complementary. Technology strives to make both unnecessary.

I know that statement is thorny. I would love to hear your response.

Alexandra Fuller’s COCKTAIL HOUR UNDER THE TREE OF FORGETFULNESS, a review for The Oregonian

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011
Click to view book on Amazon.

Click to view book on Amazon.

Alexandra Fuller returns to the African landscape in her memoir, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness. It accepts the curious task of being both a prequel and a sequel to her 2001 debut, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood. With a love of landscape, a historian’s lens and a knack for laugh-out-loud satire aimed at her mother’s narcissism, Fuller tells the broader story of her family’s participation in the Rhodesian civil war.

(Published in The Oregonian, August 28, 2011. Read the full review here.)

Heather Sharfeddin’s DAMAGED GOODS, review for The Oregonian

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011


Heather Sharfeddin’s fourth novel, “Damaged Goods,” tells the nimble and compact story of an auctioneer who comes to understand the meaning of “priceless.” Three months after a traumatic brain injury, Hershel Swift struggles to remember everything from basic words to how he once ran his business. His old self is an alien personality whom everyone in his hometown of Sherwood seems to despise, and he harbors a suspicion that he played a role in trafficking unregistered guns through his warehouse — a crime, he used to insist, that was victimless. When one day he assists a young woman, Silvie, on the roadside, they unknowingly start a journey that will lead them into their shame-ridden pasts and into a potentially violent future.

Read the rest of the review here.

Synopsis of SHAHIDA

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

scarabRabia’s judgment of her college beloved, Ali, is wrong—she misunderstands his love as partnership, and when she gets pregnant, he abandons her to the punishment of her strict Jordanian father, who sends her to finish university at a fundamentalist school in Gaza City. She is to learn good Muslim motherhood and gain a husband; only then can she get her infant son back. In other words, what starts as an act of independence ends up as the yoke of traditional womanhood.

Yet the school is more than it seems. The headmistress singles Rabia out and offers another option: to go through the motions of the Islamic education program, but to also be trained in the government’s corps of female operatives, who will be married with the rest of their classmates to vacationing bureaucrats and carry out orders from the government. Rabia soon discovers that the secret program is not what she expected: it is a small class of misfits whose desperation is being exploited into zealotry. The women are being trained as shahidat, suicide bombers. Once in, she cannot back out lest she be stoned as a “collaborator,” and die before ever holding her son again.

The only way out is a fellow student who offers to help Rabia escape in exchange for favors to an underground organization. As the favors grow larger, Rabia advances on a road that leads to violence anyway—but it also leads to Sami, an unwilling revolutionary who falls in love with her. She must decide whether to accept his offer of marriage as a way out of a land where the veil of femininity can hide almost anything, and where every act is dangerously political, even love.

***This is about as rough as a rough draft can be. I posted it, however, so you can see how a concept evolves over the course of a year. See below.

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