Fall for the Blog: Courtney Brkic and Marjan Kamali

Fourth Estate follows events of the Fifteenth Annual Fall for the Book Festival through Fall for the Blog.
Authors Courtney Brkic and Marjan Kamali share their accounts of immigrant-American life. 
Arrielle Brooks
(photo by John Irwin)
I went to another reading event on Wednesday with Courtney Brkic and Marjan Kamali, both former Creative Writing MFA colleagues at NYU. Both authors read from their latest novels—in Kamali's case, her first—that each dealt heavily with different aspects of immigrant-American life.
I originally attended the event because Professor Brkic taught one of my Creative Writing classes, and I was interested in her work. Her previous book, The Stone Fields, was a memoir that focused on her experience in mapping her family's history in Yugoslavia. Her new book, The First Rule of Swimming, features characters that mirror her experience in many ways. She read two sections from different characters' perspectives that helped frame a fictionalized Croatian island.
Kamali read part of the first chapter in Together Tea, bringing to life a scene between a mother and daughter who had moved to New York from Iran. Her characters struggled with reconciling their family's background with their new lives, and it was nice to hear Kamali read the passages with distinct voices for each character.
Each author used the following Q&A session to discuss their researching , drafting, and decision making put into publishing their novels. As former Creative Writing students themselves, they had plenty of insight to share with the audience about the craft. 
Each woman drew from personal experience, but the amount of research and time they spent to make their settings as authentic as possible amazed me. From visiting the countries their novels took place, to speaking with people who lived during key historical periods, both author's put in a great amount of work during the whole process. I appreciated that dedication, and it definitely showed in the readings.


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