THE WHITE MOSQUE: A Conversation with Author SOFIA SAMATAR and CARMEN MARIA MACHADO
A Room of One's Own is thrilled to welcome Sofia Samatar and Carmen Maria Machado for a discussion of Sofia's newest book The White Mosque.
This event is virtual via Crowdcast.
A historical tapestry of border-crossing travelers, of students, wanderers, martyrs and invaders, The White Mosque is a memoiristic, prismatic record of a journey through Uzbekistan and of the strange shifts, encounters, and accidents that combine to create an identity
In the late nineteenth century, a group of German-speaking Mennonites traveled from Russia into Central Asia, where their charismatic leader predicted Christ would return. Over a century later, Sofia Samatar joins a tour following their path, fascinated not by the hardships of their journey, but by its aftermath: the establishment of a small Christian village in the Muslim Khanate of Khiva. Named Ak Metchet, “The White Mosque,” after the Mennonites’ whitewashed church, the village lasted for fifty years.
In pursuit of this curious history, Samatar discovers a variety of characters whose lives intersect around the ancient Silk Road, from a fifteenth-century astronomer-king, to an intrepid Swiss woman traveler of the 1930s, to the first Uzbek photographer, and explores such topics as Central Asian cinema, Mennonite martyrs, and Samatar’s own complex upbringing as the daughter of a Swiss-Mennonite and a Somali-Muslim, raised as a Mennonite of color in America. A secular pilgrimage to a lost village and a near-forgotten history, The White Mosque traces the porous and ever-expanding borders of identity, asking: How do we enter the stories of others? And how, out of the tissue of life, with its weird incidents, buried archives, and startling connections, does a person construct a self?
Sofia Samatar is the author of the novels A Stranger in Olondria and The Winged Histories, the short story collection, Tender, and Monster Portraits, a collaboration with her brother, the artist Del Samatar. Sofia’s work has received the William L. Crawford Award, the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award. She has also been a finalist for the Locus Award, the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Italo Calvino Prize. Her work has appeared in several year’s-best anthologies, including The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Sofia holds a PhD in African Languages and Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she currently teaches African literature, Arabic literature in translation, world literature, and speculative fiction at James Madison University.
Carmen Maria Machado is the author of the bestselling memoir In the Dream House and the award-winning short story collection Her Body and Other Parties. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, and the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Prize, among others. Her essays, fiction, and criticism have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Granta, Vogue, This American Life, The Believer, Guernica, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Guggenheim Foundation, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and the Millay Colony for the Arts.