What I'm Borrowing: Sara El Sayed

What I’m Borrowing is a blog series exploring our affection for libraries, loans, and sharing great reads. Each post we ask a Queensland writer and reader to tell us about their recent lending-loves.

Sara El Sayed is a writer based in Meanjin (Brisbane). Her debut memoir, Muddy People, is out now with Black Inc. Muddy People is a story of an Egyptian Muslim girl growing up in South-East Queensland. It follows Soos (Sara) as she faces conflicts surrounding her body, her faith, and her future. It tracks how her relationships with her parents evolve over time, as her father undergoes chemotherapy, and her mother deals with the death of her own father. Sara won a Queensland Writers Fellowship in the 2020 Queensland Literary Awards. 

Tell us about the last thing you borrowed from the library. How did you discover it? Did you return it on time?

I’m currently borrowing Pink Mountain on Locust Island by Jamie Marina Lau. It was recommended to me as I was looking for something with rich but controlled description. It’s so impressive, and so gorgeously written. I don’t think I have ever returned a book on time in my life, so I imagine this loan will be no different.

Jamie Marina Lau's book was shortlisted for the Stella Prize in 2019.

Do you remember your first library card? Can you describe the library you visited as a child?

I do. My first library card was a Redland Shire one (before it became a city), and our local was the Capalaba Library, which was just outside the Capalaba Central Shopping Centre. There was a fountain in between the exit of the shopping centre and the library where all the cool emo teens would hang out, and occasionally throw their ciggies into the water. It was a nice place. My grandma would take me and we’d spend hours just looking through the shelves. I remember being so excited about how many books I could borrow at once, and the fact that I could use the computers. 

But the first library I visited in Australia was the Bulimba Library. My family and I had just arrived in the country from Alexandria, Egypt, in January 2002 – I was about seven years old – and I have distinct memories of sitting in the back and reading Possum Magic.  

Sara's bright and shiny library card – you can get yours here or here (or both!)

What other items are you, and people in your house, borrowing right now?

I am “borrowing” my sister’s expensive top and may have “lost” it or “accidentally burnt a hole in it because I didn’t know it was a material that shouldn’t be ironed and now it is hidden away at the bottom of my cupboard in hopes she will not remember that she loaned it to me”.  

Thinking about your own bookshelf, what is your favourite book to lend out from home?

The book I’ve lent out the most is Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. It’s so sharp, and a quick read too. It’s a good one to hook people who consider themselves non-readers onto good literature. I recently lent The Labyrinth by Amanda Lohrey, Lucky’s by Andrew Pippos, and From Where I Fell by Susan Johnson to my grandma. I am awaiting her reviews.  

Sara is a 2020 Queensland Writers Fellow – allowing her time and money to work on her next book (this time a novel).

About Sara El Sayed

Sara El Sayed is a writer based in Meanjin (Brisbane). Her work appears in Growing Up African in Australia (Black Inc.) and Arab-Australian-Other (Pan Macmillan), among other places. She is currently a recipient of a Queensland Writers Fellowship. She was shortlisted for the 2020 Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award, and the 2019 Richell Prize for Emerging Writers. Her debut memoir, Muddy People, is out now. 


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