Justin Sirois is a writer living in Baltimore, Maryland. His books include Secondary Sound, MLKNG SCKLS, and Falcons on the Floor (Genius Publishing Press) written with Iraqi refugee Haneen Alshujairy. He also runs the Understanding Campaign with Haneen and co-directs Narrow House. Justin received individual Maryland State Art Council grants in 2003, 2007, 2010, and 2011 and a Baker “b” grant in 2011.
From the Baker Artist Awards web site (http://www.bakerartistawards.org), Justin Sirois on writing about the Iraqi people:
Writing stories about the people of Iraq has changed my life in ways I never thought it would. When I started outlining the novel Falcons on the Floor, I knew Id have to research more than I ever had before. It would be a project that would take over my life, and it did. I would go to sleep thinking about Fallujah the sieges the people affected by the war, and I would literally wake up imaging my characters and plot.
My online interviews with Iraqi refugees developed into friendships, one of which became a powerful artistic collaboration. Haneen Alshujairy, the most responsive of my interviewees, gave me the courage to finish the novel. Later, I wrote a book of short stories, which she consulted on as well. In 2010, we started the Understanding Campaign, which has developed into an awareness campaign for multiple nonprofits working to bring the Arab/Muslin and Western worlds closer to true peace and understanding. Together, Haneen and I are planning another novel that is a follow-up to Falcons on the Floor.
I believe that collaboration is a vital part of community building within your chosen discipline. Creating Narrow House, my independent publishing house, has brought me closer to writers from all over the country, but most importantly, within the local writing community. Publishing innovative writing has been Narrow Houses mission for over eight years.
The CityLit Project nurtures the culture of literature in Baltimore and throughout Maryland. CityLit creates enthusiasm for literary arts, connects a community of avid readers and writers, and opens opportunities for young people and diverse audiences to embrace the literary arts. For more information, visit the CityLit web site at http://www.citylitproject.org.