Omar El Akkad Named 2024 Marino Author

A headshot of the male Egyptian-Canadian novelist Omar El Akkad next to the cover of his novel, "What Strange Paradise."

The 2024 Marino Family International Writers' Academic Workshop will feature award-winning author Omar El Akkad and his acclaimed novel, “What Strange Paradise.”

This year’s workshop will take place on August 26 during New Student Orientation, where El Akkad will deliver a lecture that discusses his novel and the life of writing with all incoming first-year students. The Marino workshop will involve students interviewing Mr. El Akkad and will also include an opportunity for all first-year students to engage with the author in a Q&A period.  

In addition, all Georgetown students, staff, and faculty are invited to meet and talk with Mr. El Akkad during the library open house, scheduled for August 27. 

“What Strange Paradise” follows the story of Amir, a 9-year-old Syrian boy who survives the sinking of a dilapidated ship carrying him and other refugees to asylum. After washing up on a nearby island, he meets a local teenage girl named Vänna, who feels like an outsider in her homeland. Though Vänna and Amir are complete strangers and don’t speak a common language, Vänna is determined to do whatever it takes to help Amir find his way to safety in a hostile world.

As a journalist, El Akkad reported from Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, and many other locations around the world. His work earned Canada's National Newspaper Award for Investigative Journalism and the Goff Penny Award for young journalists. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, Le Monde, Guernica, GQ, and many other newspapers and magazines. 

His debut novel, “American War,” is an international bestseller and has been translated into thirteen languages. It was listed as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, GQ, NPR, and Esquire, and was selected by the BBC as one of 100 Novels That Shaped Our World.

The Marino Workshop began in 1995 as an opportunity for students to learn to transcend the particularities of their own culture, to develop respect for and understanding of differences of opinion, and to celebrate common human similarities. All first-year and transfer students are invited to read a selected text by a major international author during the summer before they begin at Georgetown. The Workshop is sponsored by Frederick Marino (SLL '68) and his family in honor of his father, Joseph Marino. The Workshop is coordinated by the University Library, the Office of the Provost, and the Marino Workshop Executive Committee.