Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) has selected Palestinian-American Hala Alyan’s debut novel Salt Houses as the campus-wide read for the university’s One Book, One NU-Q program. 

The novel, which has won several awards, including the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab-American Book Award, is about a Palestinian family caught between present and past, between displacement and home. Alyan will visit NU-Q in March and will deliver a community-wide lecture as well as visit classrooms and meet with students. 

The book has achieved popular appeal and critical acclaim from The New York Times, National Public Radio, Dallas Morning News and others, including the Los Angeles Review of Books, which said: “Alyan is doing important work through this novel...Salt Houses can be read very simply as a family drama, proving Alyan’s talent as a master of both the family drama genre as well as the depths and complexities of the Palestinian displacement.”

“The One Book, One NU-Q program is a wonderful opportunity for everyone at NU-Q – faculty, students, and staff – to come together as a community to read the same book to celebrate common understandings and differences. This is an important book that speaks to the human condition at a time when migration and the displacement of refugees affects so many,” said NU-Q’s Dean and CEO Everette E. Dennis.  He added, “It is an honor to have this gifted author join us for what I imagine will be productive discussion and debate.” 


“This is an important book that speaks to the human condition at a time when migration and the displacement of refugees affects so many.”
- Everette E. Dennis, Dean and CEO, NU-Q

Spanning six generations, Alyan’s book follows eight members of a Palestinian family in their search for home and identity. Through multiple periods of relocation and the ongoing rebuilding of their lives, Alyan writes about the family members’ emotional struggle set against the backdrop of political turmoil starting in the 1960s at the beginning of the Six-Day War.

The book was selected by a committee of faculty, staff, and students led by Hariclea Zengos, senior associate dean and the director of the NU-Q Liberal Arts Program who also teaches in literature and literary studies. Several professors have incorporated the theme of the novel in their courses and reading assignments during this the academic year.

In addition to her work as a writer, Alyan is a practicing clinical psychologist whose studies focused on trauma and addiction work with various populations. She has been published in Guernica and other literary journals and has authored three poetry collections.