Dear Layla: A Potluck, A Reading, and a Discussion in Chicago
by Mark Chmiel
Dear Chicago Friends,
I will be in town on Saturday 21 May for a book reading and discussion of my recent novel Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine. Melissa Banerjee has kindly agreed to host us at her home: 745 N. Throop Street, Apartment #1, Chicago 60642.
We’ll begin with a potluck dinner at 6:30 p.m. At 7:30 we’ll take turns reading aloud a few of the short chapters, and discussing themes, issues, and questions. I’ll have copies available.
Dear Layla is the story of how a third-year medical student, Layla Espinoza, came to decide to take a year off and work in Gaza. Through a long letter sent to her by a former professor, she learns about compromismo, accompaniment, and staying human in and beyond Palestine from other characters like Ibtihaj, Carla Nguyen, Abu Ahmed, Shameeka Smith, Shahnawaz Awan, Safa Khalidi, Sharooq, Henry Nagler, Umm Safi, Sabine Laserstein, Neeta Gupta, Danesha Clark, Rob Renaud, Abu Razi, Barakat, Tanya Chatterjee, and Sophie Polyakova.
Actor Katie Consamus said this about her experience of the book: “I read Dear Layla on the long commute from Queens to Brooklyn, and the first thought I had was that I ought to pack a bag immediately and go to Palestine (expired passport be damned). I realized by the time I was back in Queens that the message was larger and louder and transcended far beyond that. And I cried. Bawled. Snot and all. I wept at the tragedy that is the world, and I wept at the hope I felt that change, everywhere and anywhere, might actually come, so long as people keep taking action and so long as writers like Mark Chmiel continue to illuminate.”
I’d love to reconnect with you soon, either at Melissa’s or whenever you may be free.
Gaza Graduation by Mary Kate MacIsaac