Diana Abu-Jaber’s unique approach to writing about food comes from her multicultural family history and upbringing.
The award-winning author and Portland State University professor has written four works of fiction and two memoirs, most of which include narratives about food in some shape or form.
Abu-Jaber grew up in upstate New York with a Jordanian father and American mother. She said Middle Eastern flavors and food provide a connection with her father’s culture.
“My father, he used to say, ‘I could lecture you about history, I can talk to you about religion and art and culture. But I’d rather give you some falafel,’” Abu-Jaber said.
Her novels span the genre spectrum, including a love story, a thriller and autobiographical works like her first book, “Arabian Jazz.” At the time her first novel was published, she said there weren’t many authors creating stories about Arab-Americans.
A graduate school professor was the first person to encourage her to write stories that more directly reflected her own experiences.
“There’s kind of an imposter issue for a lot of us who are hyphenated Americans. I wasn’t raised in the Middle East, so for me, my culture is a hyphenated culture … so you can sometimes feel like you don’t know anything, like you’re not qualified to speak on anything.”
Her most recent book, “Life Without a Recipe,” is a memoir about her journey to develop “recipes for having a creative life.” The paperback edition is being published in April, 2017.