Reem Bassionney answers an audience's question during the Question and Answer Session
To foster a culture of reading in Qatar, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Q) celebrated the launch of its Life of the Mind program on Sunday (October 23).
The inaugural event featured ReemBassiouney, author of award-winning novel “The Pistachio Seller”, who shared her views with freshmen from SFS-Q, as well as the wider book-reading community in Qatar in two separate sessions.
At the evening session for the community, SFS-Q dean, GerdNonneman welcomed the audience and described the program as a good example of the intellectual life of the university.
“The idea for this Life of the Mind program grew out of a similar program at Georgetown University’s Washington D.C. campus – the Marino Family International Writers’ Academic Workshop. That workshop is now in its 17th year and is valued as a collegial means of engaging students and mentors together in intellectual discourse, through the thoughtful reading of a text by a major international author,” said Dean Nonneman.
Bassiouney read excerpts from “The Pistachio Seller” - winner of the 2009 King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies Translation of Arabic Literature Award - and explained the circumstances that shaped the content of the book. Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions, get books signed, and talk informally with the speaker, who has published five novels in the Middle East.
“I lived in Egypt till I was 23, then moved to the UK but was surprised how it became part of me, then moved to the US and that became part of me … and suddenly thinking that I am an Egyptian with perhaps three different identities,” noted Bassiouney, whose story largely revolves around the questions of faith, identity and affiliation.
In the afternoon session, Bassiouney, who is an assistant professor of Arabic Linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., interacted with a lively group of 73 SFS-Q freshmen together with more than 75 additional audience members about the book.
Following the Washington D.C. campus tradition, all incoming freshman students at SFS-Q were asked to read “The Pistachio Seller”,and they had been discussing it in groups during the course of the past few weeks in preparation for their meeting with the author.
SFS-Q library director, Frieda Wiebe said: “Apart from the student engagement, this launch of Life of the Mind also celebrates our still relatively new and growing library.”