Isabella Hammad

Award-winning Novelist
Palestine Book Award Winner
5 Under 35 Honoree

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • An Evening with Isabella Hammad

“Hammad is a natural social novelist with an ear for lively dialogue as well as an ability to illuminate psychological interiority. She is a writer of startling talent.” —Observer

“Isabella Hammad is a master of subtle nuance in dealing with both Arab and Jewish society.” —The New York Times

“Hammad uses the features of historical novels to cut through the familiar dichotomies of West and Near East, placing her protagonist in a rich web of families, political intrigues, and cultural exchanges, and subtly reconfiguring the literary tropes of ‘home’ and ‘abroad.’” ―New Yorker

“Isabella Hammad is an enormous talent and her book is a wonder.” ―Zadie Smith

Isabella Hammad is the author of the critically acclaimed debut novel The Parisian which won the 2019 Palestine Book Award. It was also a Best Book of 2019 at Vogue and Amazon, one of LitHub’s Ultimate Best Books of 2019, and one of the Observer’s ‘hotly tipped’ debuts of 2019. Her story “Mr. Can’aan” won the 2019 O. Henry Prize and the 2018 Plimpton Prize for Fiction. Isabella Hammad is a master of subtle nuance in dealing with both Arab and Jewish society, writes The New York Times.

The Parisian illuminates a pivotal period of Palestinian history through the journey and romances of one young man, from his studies in France during World War I to his return home to Palestine at the dawn of its battle for independence. “Written in soulful, searching prose,” The Guardian continues: “it’s a jam-packed epic that sets the life of one man against the backdrop of the fall of the Ottoman empire, the British mandate over Palestine and the Arab uprising for independence. Hammad wades through more than 20 years of political upheaval to explore ideas about cultural identity, parental betrayal and the accidental harm we often cause others.”

Hammad’s writing has appeared in Conjunctions and the Paris Review. She is a National Book Awards 5 under 35 Honoree.

Born in London, Hammad obtained her undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature from Oxford University. In 2012 she was awarded a Kennedy Scholarship to Harvard GSAS, and in 2013 she received the Harper Wood Creative Writing Studentship from Cambridge University. During her MFA in Fiction at New York University she was a Stein Fellow, and she was the 2016-2017 Axinn Foundation NYU Writer-in-Residence. Hammad resides in Brooklyn.


Isabella Hammad is the author of the critically acclaimed debut novel The Parisian, which won the 2019 Palestine Book Award. It was also a Best Book of 2019 at Vogue and Amazon, one of LitHub’s Ultimate Best Books of 2019, and one of the Observer’s ‘hotly tipped’ debuts of 2019. Her story “Mr. Can’aan” won the 2019 O. Henry Prize and the 2018 Plimpton Prize for Fiction. Hammad’s writing has appeared in Conjunctions and the Paris Review. She is a National Book Awards 5 under 35 Honoree. Born in London, Hammad obtained her undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature from Oxford University. In 2012 she was awarded a Kennedy Scholarship to Harvard GSAS, and in 2013 she received the Harper Wood Creative Writing Studentship from Cambridge University. During her MFA in Fiction at New York University she was a Stein Fellow, and she was the 2016-2017 Axinn Foundation NYU Writer-in-Residence. Hammad resides in Brooklyn.


THE PARISIAN (2019)

“Stunning. A lush rendering of Palestinian life a century ago under the British mandate and a sumptuous epic about the enduring nature of love.” ―Vogue

As the First World War shatters families, destroys friendships and kills lovers, a young Palestinian dreamer sets out to find himself. Midhat Kamal picks his way across a fractured world, from the shifting politics of the Middle East to the dinner tables of Montpellier and a newly tumultuous Paris. He discovers that everything is fragile: love turns to loss, friends become enemies and everyone is looking for a place to belong. Isabella Hammad delicately unpicks the tangled politics and personal tragedies of a turbulent era – the Palestinian struggle for independence, the strife of the early twentieth century and the looming shadow of the Second World War. An intensely human story amidst a global conflict, The Parisian is historical fiction with a remarkable contemporary voice.


An Excerpt of The Parisian

There was one other Arab onboard the ship to Marseille. His name was Faruq al-Azma, and the day after leaving port in Alexandria he approached Midhat at breakfast, with a plate of toast in one hand and a string of amber prayer beads in the other. He sat, tugged at the cuffs of his shirt, and started to describe without any introduction how he was returning from Damascus to resume his teaching post in the language department of the Sorbonne. He had left Paris at the outbreak of war but after the Miracle of the Marne was deter-mined to return. He had grey eyes and a slightly rectangular head.

“Baris.” He sighed. “It is where my life is.”

To young Midhat Kamal, this statement was highly suggestive. In his mind a gallery of lamps directly illuminated a dance hall full of women. He looked closely at Faruq’s clothes. He wore a pale blue three-piece suit, and an indigo tie with a silver tiepin in the shape of a bird. A cane of some dark unpainted wood leaned against the table.

“I am going to study medicine,” he said. “At the University of Montpellier.”

“Bravo,” said Faruq.

Midhat smiled as he reached for the coffeepot. Muscles he had not known were tense began to relax.

“This is your first visit to France,” said Faruq.
Midhat said nothing, assenting.