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Mortada Gzar Books In Order

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Publication Order of Memoirs

I'm in Seattle, Where Are You?: A Memoir (2021)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Mortada Gzar
Mortada Gzar is an award-winning Iraqi author best known for his memoir I’m in Seattle, Where Are You? The talented author is also an accomplished visual artist, filmmaker, and journalist. His Film Language received a Doha Film Institute award, while his animated films have appeared in International Film Festivals. The author’s political cartoons also feature in Arabic Newspapers. Gzar was born in Kuwait, but he grew up in Basra, Iraq. He holds a Petroleum Engineering degree from the University of Baghdad and also went through the University of Iowa International Writing Program.

I’m in Seattle, Where Are You?
I’m in Seattle, Where Are You? is a memoir detailing the author’s life as a gay man in Iraq. As the US war on Iraq rages, Mortada Gzar continues with his studies at the University of Baghdad. Mortada is gay, but since people like him are not accepted in his society, he has learned to hide his identity. This goes on until he meets Morise, an African-American soldier. For these two men, it’s love at first sight. However, they know what kinds of dangers they would attract by being openly gay in Iraq. This doesn’t stop them from having a clandestine relationship. For Mortada, this is a period of self-discovery, and the moments he shares with this man remain in his mind even after Morise goes back to the US.

Over time, Morise and Mortada lose touch, and this Iraqi man takes the time to understand himself. However, he lives in fear that someone in his society will find out that he is gay. The rejection from his society sometimes gets overwhelming, yet there is little Mortada can do to change the situation. He had seen many like him get killed for expressing their sexuality or going against the norm. In 2016, Mortada relocated to the United States as part of the Iowa International Writing Program. He keeps the hope of reconnecting with Morise. He even enlists the help of the HIV-positive community in Seattle in his quest. Does Mortada eventually link up with Morise?

This is a captivating memoir on loss, hope, and love. Morise and Mortada’s love story sounds impossible considering all the odds that were working against them. Mortada moves to the US, hoping to reconnect with his lost love and possibly live in a more accommodating society. He is shocked to discover that while not many people were concerned about his sexuality, he was to be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. Racism becomes another demon that Mortada had to confront when living in the US. Throughout this story, Mortada’s resilience shines through. Yes, many things are working against him, but he keeps pushing.

As the author narrates his experiences as a gay man, he also goes back to his childhood in Baghdad. He narrates worked as a scrap metal collector in a region characterized by war. Money is scarce, yet this young man has to find a way to earn a living. Mortada experienced life before, during, and after the US war in Iraq, and he highlights the events that stood out for him. In all three stages of the war, Mortada had to conceal his sexuality; otherwise, he would be risking an attack by the Baath party. There was also fear that the fundamentalists would kill him if they discovered that he was gay. He had seen the brutality meted on a later killed friend, so Mortada was aware of how serious the situation could get.

While this memoir comes with some sad and moving moments, there is some happiness in it too. It is sometimes enlightening, and there is a clear message if you are paying attention. Mortada fell in love with someone who was considered an enemy in a society that would reject him too if he was open about his sexuality. Instead of moping after Mosire goes back to his homeland, Mortada chooses to remember the good times. It is amazing that the characters Mortada meets in Seattle end up changing his life for the better. His first encounter will love also helps him to evolve and accept who he is.

It is refreshing reading a different voice in a fantastical and non-linear story. While Mortada’s story is majorly about being a gay man in a judgmental society, it is also the tale of most of us. It is about heartbreaks, bravery, self-discovery, and acceptance. Mortada’s experiences also show what it means to grow up in a war-torn country. He was forced to grow up too quickly, and the fact that he did not fit in did not make things any easier. Things begin to change for him when he experiences true love. He also gets a new family, far away from home, who cares enough to help the man who changed his life.

Mortada’s memoir was originally written in Arabic. While it is possible that some meaning may have been lost in translation, the author is an easy character to identify with. His struggles are nothing small, yet he perseveres and hopes for a better tomorrow. Mortada also paints a perfect picture of the lives of refugees trying to start life again, far away from their families and loved ones. The prose is quite rich, and through Mortada’s experiences, we get to see what it means to be a gay man in a society that shuns people like him.

I’m in Seattle, Where Are You? is an exquisite story detailing the life of Iraqi Novelist Mortada Gzar. Throughout this story, Mortada’s desire to reunite with his lover is clear. The tension rises as Mortada’s search intensifies, and you cannot help but hope that he will find the man he is looking for. Will Morise want to continue a relationship with him? How hard can finding him be now that Mortada is in the US? This is an honest and hard-to-put-down memoir. Mortada and the other characters who feature in this biography are also hard to forget.

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