A Conversation & Cooking Demo with Author Laila El-Haddad

The cover of The Gaza Kitchen is a full cover photograph of a wide variety of food, including a whole fish, rice, and hummus.

by Kristen B.

Author and Journalist Laila El-Haddad discusses the history of spices and cuisine from the Middle East and demonstrates some of her recipes in this special virtual event on January 20.

Her book is extraordinary, clearly a labor of love. She talks about living and political conditions in Gaza, while also providing recipes for standard and special dishes of the region. She explains the regional pantry of ingredients and various techniques. I learned that the flavors that separate Gazan cuisine from other Palestinian cooking are hot chilies and dill. I can’t wait to try a couple of recipes (although my family has a notoriously low tolerance for heat), especially for various kebabs.

My favorite parts, though, are the abundance of photography and the personal interviews. This book is simply stuffed full of pictures: food and preparation steps, sure, but also portraits and places. It’s like taking a tour! And El-Haddad included these wonderful side-bar individual interviews, mostly with women and some local farmers. They give such a revealing glimpse into the lives of ordinary Gazan people. My favorite was with one woman, Um Sultan, who was less than happy that her routine, easy kufta recipe was to be included. Who wants to be to be singled out for their good, plain cooking as opposed to something more complicated and impressive? I learned a lot, but mostly was reminded of the power of food to cross barriers and bring people together to enjoy a good meal.

The Fertile Crescent region—the swath of land comprising a vast portion of today’s Middle East—has long been regarded as pivotal to the rise of civilization. Alongside the story of human development, innovation, and progress, there is a culinary tradition of equal richness and importance. The book includes a quote from Anthony Bourdain on the cover:

“An important book on an egregiously underappreciated, under-reported area of gastronomy. This is old school in the best possible meaning of the word.”

Laila El-Haddad is an award-winning Palestinian-American author and journalist.  She frequently speaks on the situation in Gaza, the intersection of food and politics, and contemporary Islam.  She has written for numerous newspapers and magazines, including the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, the Guardian and the International Herald Tribune and has appeared on many international broadcasting networks, including NPR, CNN, Al Jazeera, and CCTV.

She is the author of Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between and, co-author of the critically acclaimed The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey, which was the recipient of the ‘Best Arab Cuisine Book’ award from Gourmand magazine, and a finalist at the 2013 MEMO Palestine Book Awards.  She is also the co-editor of the anthology Gaza Unsilenced and contributor to The Immigrant Cookbook: Recipes that Make America Great.  Her forthcoming book, Halal Tayyib: A Muslim American Culinary Journey, explores the history of Islam in America as told through food.  An avid gardener and outdoor enthusiast, she makes her home in Howard County, MD with her husband and their four children.

Thursday, January 20 at 7 pm, online. Please register here.

Sponsored by Muslim Family Center – Howard County, MD and RIVUS Consulting, Howard County, MD

Celebrate Native American Heritage

Four pictures in a row picture a storyteller, singer, hoop dancer, and cover of We Are Water Protectors.

Join the celebration of Native American Culture and Resilience on Saturday, Nov 6 from 11 am to 3 pm at HCLS East Columbia Branch.

In an interview with Ani Begay Auld, member of the Navajo Nation and owner of Navabedine.com, she wants you to know, “We are still here. A lot of people put Native Americans into this certain time frame … like we’re relics from the past.” Nearly 600 federally recognized Native Nations exist, with dozens more recognized solely by states. Here in Maryland, the Piscataway Conoy and the Accohannock Nations are recognized, and Howard County sits on land that belonged to the Susquehannock nation. At one time, at least eight nations lived in Maryland.

Auld also recommends that you, “Seek out films or books written by native authors and look at the land that you’re on.” The author of the award-winning children’s book, We Are Water Protectors, will be part of the FREE event that also features dancing, singing, drumming, storytelling, children’s crafts, vendors, Navajo Tacos, and more. The line-up includes:

  • Rose Powhatan, Storyteller
  • Lance Fisher, Singer
  • Angela Gladue, Hoop Dancer
  • Chris Eaglehawk, Traditional Dance
  • Karelle Hall, Nanticoke Toe Dance
  • Sonny Elm, Smoke Dance
  • AND
  • Carole Lindstrom, author and #1 New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2021 Caldecott Medal, at 2 pm

This event is a collaboration between Nava Be Diné, Howard County Library System, County Executive Calvin Ball, and Howard County Office of Human Rights and Equity.

This free event will be held outside the HCLS East Columbia Branch unless inclement weather causes the event to move inside the branch. Masks are required.

Registration is optional and appreciated.

Author Works: Mitch Albom on Nov 4

Adrift in a raft after a deadly ship explosion, nine people struggle for survival at sea. Three days pass. Short on water, food and hope, they spot a man floating in the waves. They pull him in.

“Thank the Lord we found you,” a passenger says.

“I am the Lord,” the man whispers.

So begins Mitch Albom’s most beguiling and inspiring novel yet.

The book cover shows five people on an orange lifeboat silhouetted against a bright full moon rising against a dark blue starry sky. The moon is reflected in the ocean in front of them.

New York Times bestselling author Mitch Albom has a genius for finding the sweet spot where the spiritual and the earthly collide in our lives. With such beloved books as Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, and more, Mitch has captivated the world. Now, in his captivating and thought-provoking new novel, The Stranger in the Lifeboat, Albom explores the essence of God on earth through a riveting story that is equal parts mystery and parable.

An explosion on a billionaire’s yacht during a gathering of some of the world’s most influential and innovative movers and shakers leaves ten disparate souls struggling to survive in a life raft. One of them writes an account of the grueling ordeal to his beloved, and those pages are later found, washed up on an island shore on the opposite side of the Atlantic. It falls to a decidedly secular and cynical police inspector to investigate what actually happened on that raft, where it seems one man, pulled from the angry sea by the others three days after the disaster, claimed to be the Lord.

The beguiling narrative alternates between sea and land, between before and after, and between skepticism and belief. What really happened to cause the explosion? Is the mysterious man really who he claims to be?

Mitch Albom has repeatedly challenged our understanding of faith and the necessity of seeking answers where we least expect them. His books have sold more than 45 million copies worldwide. Tuesdays with Morrie is the best-selling memoir of all time, with over 17 million copies sold internationally, and was adapted for the stage and as a television movie which garnered four Emmy Awards. With The Stranger in the Lifeboat, this master storyteller offers a fresh take on themes that have defined his estimable work.

Albom has founded nine charities in the metropolitan Detroit area: SAY Detroit, an umbrella organization for charities dedicated to improving the lives of the neediest, including the SAY Detroit Family Health ClinicDetroit Dream Scholarsand A Time To Help. In January 2015, Albom announced the launch of the SAY Detroit Play Center at Lipke Park, an innovative motivational learning program equipped with state-of-the-art athletic facilities, digital learning center and tutoring program. A Hole in the Roof Foundation helps faith groups of every denomination who care for the homeless repair the spaces in which they carry out their work. 


Mitch Albom will discuss his new book and his writing on November 4 @ 7:30 pm. Per the publisher, this virtual event is ticketed and includes one copy of the book The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom, signed by the author. 

TICKETED VIRTUAL EVENT. Tickets include one copy of the book The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom, signed by the author. Tickets range from $23.99 – $27.99, plus fees. Purchase tickets HERE.

The Other Black Girl

Photo of Zakiya Dalila Harris, with the book cover in the bottom right hand corner. Book features a black woman in profile, with her hair up in complex braids. The "I" in "Girl" is an afro hair-pick.

By Rohini G.

This book defies genre. Is it a sly satire or a hard-hitting social commentary? Is it a sharp page-turning thriller or contemporary literature at its best? A witty and playful debut or a manual for code-switching? I could not slot it into just one category. It is the book you will be discussing with your friends and neighbors. Right, Linda?

In blue round italics, "What was she going to do? Who was she going to be?"

Zakiyah Dalila Harris’s novel debuted as a Most Anticipated Book of 2021 by Time, The Washington Post, Harper’s Bazaar, Entertainment Weekly, Marie Claire, Bustle, BuzzFeed, Parade, Goodreads, Fortune, and the BBC. Deservedly so. The Other Black Girl is an electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.

Written with wit and incisive humor, this book delves into the modern corporate atmosphere with its microaggressions, isolation, and manipulations. Working at Wagner Books as the only black editorial assistant, Nella Rogers is very excited when one morning, she looks through a small crack in a cubicle and sees what she calls “the flash of a brown hand.” Enter Hazel-May McCall. Nella finds a confidante in Hazel and someone who finally gets it. But it doesn’t take long for Nella to realize there’s something off about Hazel, even if she can’t quite put her finger on it. And then, shortly after Hazel’s arrival, the first anonymous note arrives on Nella’s desk: “Leave Wagner Now.” Hazel? And if not Hazel, then who? Nella begins searching for answers—and in the process, finds herself at the center of a dangerous conspiracy that runs far deeper than she ever could have known 

I thoroughly enjoyed Zakiyah’s sparkling style of writing and her ability to paint office dynamics in nuanced shades of privilege and discrimination, while juggling an un-put-down-able mystery: a mystery that leaves your insides twisted at the end. In her review in The Washington Post, Naomi Jackson says, “One of the pleasures of “The Other Black Girl” is its unapologetic appeal to Black female readers. From references to 90s Black culture to ample servings of hair-related angst, conversations and plot points, Black girls will appreciate how their experiences, perspectives and quirks are centered in this novel.”

We are excited to host Zakiyah on June 23 at 7 pm. Listen to Zakiyah Harris and bring your questions. Register here

Rohini is the Adult Curriculum Specialist with HCLS. She loves literature and rainy days.