Chronically questioning, funny, and bold, a young American explores the majority-Muslim lands that scare him most. Armed only with college Arabic and restless curiosity, Adam Valen Levinson sets out to “learn about the world 9/11 made us fear.” From a base in globalized and sterilized Abu Dhabi, he sets out to lunch in Taliban territory in Afghanistan, travels under the watchful eye of Syria’s secret police, risks shipwreck en route to Somalia, investigates Yazidi beliefs in a sacred cave, cliff dives in Oman, celebrates New Year’s Eve in Tahrir Square, and, at every turn, discovers a place that matches not at all with its reputation. Valen Levinson crosses borders with wisecracking humor, erudition, and humanity, seeking common ground with “bros” everywhere, and finding that people who pray differently often laugh the same. And as a young man bar mitzvahed eight years late, he slowly learns how childish it is to live by decisions and distinctions born of fear. Written on four continents over seven years, The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah (W.W. Norton, 2017) is the hard-won first book by journalist, sociologist, comedian, and sometime trumpeter Adam Valen Levinson.
The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah
10:30 am to 12:30 pm