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Interview: Laila Lalami Stands for America's 'Conditional Citizens'

'...I am trying to tell a story in the most truthful way that I can...'
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  • Conditional Citizens
  • '...I am trying to tell a story in the most truthful way that I can...'

Publisher's Summary

A New York Times Editors' Choice.

Named a Best Book of the Year by Time, NPR, BookPage, and the LA Times

Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.

What does it mean to be American? In this starkly illuminating and impassioned book, Pulitzer Prize­­-finalist Laila Lalami recounts her unlikely journey from Moroccan immigrant to US citizen, using it as a starting point for her exploration of the rights, liberties, and protections that are traditionally associated with American citizenship. Tapping into history, politics, and literature, she elucidates how accidents of birth - such as national origin, race, and gender - that once determined the boundaries of Americanness still cast their shadows today.   

Lalami poignantly illustrates how white supremacy survives through adaptation and legislation, with the result that a caste system is maintained that keeps the modern equivalent of White male landowners at the top of the social hierarchy. Conditional citizens, she argues, are all the people with whom America embraces with one arm and pushes away with the other.   

Brilliantly argued and deeply personal, Conditional Citizens weaves together Lalami's own experiences with explorations of the place of non-Whites in the broader American culture. 

©2020 Laila Lalami (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

One of: Electric Literature 56 Books by Women and Nonbinary WOC to Read in 2020

BuzzFeed Most Anticipated Books of 2020

Millions Most Anticipated Books of 2020

Vulture Best Upcoming Books 2020, 1/10/20

Paste Magazine Most Anticipated NonFiction Books of 2020

The Week Anticipated Books of 2020

BookPage: Most Anticipated Nonfiction

Ms. Magazine: Most Anticipated Feminist Books 

Library Journal: Barbara's Picks

PW top 10: Most Anticipated Politics/Current Events 

LitHub: Most Anticipated Books of 2020 

"Propulsive, fascinating.... Lalami treats this complex, incendiary topic with nuanced considerationand blistering insight." (Booklist, starred review)

"In this eloquent and troubling account, novelist and National Book Award-finalist Lalami (The Other Americans) draws on her personal history as 'an immigrant, a woman, an Arab, and a Muslim' to argue that becoming a US citizen does not necessarily mean becoming 'an equal member of the American family'.... This profound inquiry into the American immigrant experience deserves to be widely read." (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

What listeners say about Conditional Citizens

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Blew my mind!

Read if you want to learn about citizenship, if you’ve read Lalami’s other work. So good!

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A must read!

Wow this book packed a punch. Filled with so many truths, and driving home the fact that many in the USA do not have equal treatment as citizens. She goes beyond critique and describes what a world would look like with equality for ALL citizens. Truly a must read book for anyone and everyone!

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MUST LISTEN!

Laila’s insightful piece and amazing storytelling takes you around the globe and teach you about valuable lessons and facts since America’s inception against migrants, females and POC.

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Nailed it

Very well explained what conditional citizen means. I feel like I have been living underneath a rock. Lalami explains in many ways how races are marginalized historically and present day. She shares personal experiences as well as statistical data. Makes me wonder why we Americans are so self absorbed. Why don’t we do much more to educate ourselves in becoming better humans? Very thought provoking.

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Everyone should listen/read this book

This is reality. Most folks like to ignore or sweep it under the rug but this problem drags down all of us. The folks who would benefit most from this book will never read it (perhaps because they can’t read more than a text or headline or concentrate for more than 140 characters).