Ledding Cultural Forum will host Abu-Jaber at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, at the Pond House, 2215 S.E. Harrison St.

Who wouldn't love a book about "love, death and cake"? That is the way Diana Abu-Jaber's culinary memoir, "Life Without a Recipe," has been described.

The LDiana Abu-Jaberedding Cultural Forum will host Abu-Jaber at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, at the Pond House, 2215 S.E. Harrison St., in Milwaukie.

She will talk about "the connections between family, politics, food and writing in the modern world," Abu-Jaber said.

She teaches writing and literature at Portland State University and divides her time between South Florida and Portland.

Although Abu-Jaber has written six books, she noted that she is especially fond of "Life Without a Recipe."

"It took a lot out of me to write — I think it's one of my boldest, most forthright and outspoken. It also has some of my favorite recipes," Abu-Jaber said.

The memoir describes Grace, Abu-Jaber's independent German grandmother, who arrives for a visit with a suitcase full of holiday cookies, in contrast to Bud, Abu-Jaber's "flamboyant, spice-obsessed Arab father."

Caught between cultures and lavished with contradictory "advice" from both sides of her family, Abu-Jaber said she spent years learning how to ignore others' good intentions.

According to her website, "Life Without a Recipe" is Abu-Jaber's "celebration of journeying without a map, of learning to ignore the script and improvise, of escaping family and making family on one's own terms."

Audience give, take

Abu-Jaber said she is excited to see everyone at the Ledding Cultural Forum and hopes attendees will bring questions for her.

"I think it's wonderful that libraries offer this kind of bridge between writers and readers. It creates a richer, more dynamic creative and literary community," she said.

"I love it when real conversation and intellectual journeys spring up at readings — readers can reveal so much more insight into the work than the author can ever discover on their own."

Books reap awards

Abu-Jaber's most recent novel, "Birds of Paradise," won the 2012 Arab-American National Book Award. It also was named one of the top books of the year by National Public Radio, the Washington Post and The Oregonian.

Her novel "Origin" was named one of the best books of the year by the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post. Her second novel, "Crescent," won the PEN Center Award for Literary fiction and the American Book Award.

Abu-Jaber's first novel, "Arabian Jazz," won the Oregon Book Award for Literary Fiction and was a finalist for the PEN Hemingway Award.

"The Language of Baklava," her first memoir, won the Northwest Booksellers' Award, and has been translated into many languages.

Listen and learn

What: The Ledding Cultural Forum presents award-wining author Diana Abu-Jaber

When: 7-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5

Where: The Ledding Library Pond House, 2215 S.E. Harrison St., Milwaukie

More: Event is free. Next up: Wendy N. Wagner on Nov. 2.

Online: For more information about Diana Abu-Jaber, visit; for more information about the Ledding Cultural Forum, visit

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