Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Interview with memoirist Albert Nasib Badre

A big welcome to today’s special guest author, Albert Nasib Badre. We’re chatting about his memoir, Looking West: TheJourney of a Lebanese a Lebanese American Immigrant.

Albert Nasib Badre is an American author born in Beirut Lebanon. He immigrated to the United States with his family in 1960 at the age of fourteen. His family made Albany, NY their first home in America where he attended a private Catholic high school through his junior year. After three years in Albany, the family moved to Iowa City, IA when his father accepted a professor position at the University of Iowa. He finished his senior year at Iowa City High School, then went on to the University of Iowa where he got a Bachelor of Arts degree. After college, he spent a year as a social worker in New York City. Deciding social work was not for him, he went on to pursue graduate studies at the University of Michigan where he got his PhD in 1973.

He spent the next thirty years at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and today he’s Emeritus Professor of Computing at Georgia Tech. During his tenure at Georgia Tech, he was an international consultant specializing in designing technology to enhance the human experience. Albert was an early pioneer in the field of human-centric design, with some thirty years of experience in human-computer interaction, learning technologies, and human-centric e-learning. His background combines expertise in the empirical methodologies of the behavioral sciences and the design approaches of the computing sciences.

Albert authored numerous technical papers, is co-editor of the book Directions in Human Computer Interaction, and the author of the book, ShapingWeb Usability: Interaction Design in Context. His memoir, Looking West, is the story of his coming of age immigration to America and subsequent conversion to the Catholic Church.

Today, Albert and his wife live in Providence, RI near his son and family, where he leads a very active volunteer life, in service to the community.

Welcome, Albert. Please tell us about your current release.
It’s about my coming of age immigration with my family from Beirut, Lebanon to the United States when I was fourteen years old. The news I’ll be traveling to America excited me to no end. What I didn’t realize when my parents told us we’ll be coming to America, was with limited English skills, it was going to be a tough road for me. I struggled as I tried to learn new customs, make friends, and adapt to a different culture. In Beirut, my family was well established, I had many friends, and was surrounded by lots of relatives. We all, relatives and friends, lived within walking distance from each other in Beirut. In Albany, N.Y., our first home in America, we were unknown nobodies. When I started in ninth grade, not only I couldn’t converse in English, none of my schoolmates knew anything about my history. I literally had to start all over.

As I strove to adapt, I read voraciously, becoming increasingly interested in religion and philosophy. Books became my “American friends,” and reading soon prompted me to ask deep theological questions about my family’s Lebanese Protestant roots, my mother’s conversion to Catholicism, and the contrast between the Protestant and Catholic faiths. This ultimately led to my Catholic conversion.

Despite the many frustrations and difficulties, my goal was to become a successful American. I pressed forward pursuing my adolescent desire, which I announced to my family at the dining room table in Beirut, to strive for my place in the “realm of the mind.” Eventually my search lead me to social activism among New York City’s poorest. And, in time, to graduate studies, where my desire was to improve the human condition through information technology.

What inspired you to write this book?
Well, it all started after my father passed away in 2010. As I mentioned in the book, my father could not come with us to Albany the first three years of our immigration. He had work commitments in Lebanon the first year; the next two years, he lived in the (Belgian) Congo where he was the economic advisor on Congolese Economic affairs to the then UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold. When my father passed away at the age of ninety-eight, my sister Maria, who lived with my parents, went through his file cabinets and found a considerable amount of papers and documents that he had accumulated over fifty years. Among these were a large collection of letters that my mother, my two brothers and myself had written to him between 1960 and 1963, our first years in the US. The majority of the letters were from my mother, who wrote to him at least once a week detailing the voyage by sea and telling him about our daily life in Albany.

After I read and reread all the letters and decided to start writing, I spent many delightful and enlightening hours conversing with my mother about our life in Lebanon and our American adventure. These conversations were at times bittersweet. Every time she would start telling an anecdote involving my father, she would weep. When she’d cry, tears would fill my eyes as well. My wife, Barbara, and I explored a large trove of photos from my parents’ files and albums as well as our own collection.

The more I wrote and as the immigration narrative in recent years became front and center in the national discourse, I felt compelled to tell my story to all those interested in modern immigrant narratives. 

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve started working on a sequel, except I am thinking seriously of writing it not as a memoir, but as a novel. It’ll be based on my life in academia. There’s lots of conflict involving people who are still around, or the families, and I am sure they would not take kindly to my relating some of the stories. It is about this idealistic individual who starts as a young assistant professor counting on spending the rest of his life pursuing a scholarly career in an intellectual paradise  disconnected from real world concerns. He finds out the truth about academic life very fast. He tries to fight to preserve his scholarly independence and, in the process, he makes enemies, is wounded more than once, and finds out academia is as cut throat as anywhere else, perhaps more. The story climax on how he overcomes conflicts and difficulties, and eventually reaches scholarly independence.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Actually, I started writing when I was a sophomore in high school. I wrote several pieces for the school newspaper, the Vincentian. Socio-political issues of the day interested me at the time and I wrote about them. In graduate school, I coauthored several papers with my Ph.D. advisor, and that’s when I learned the art of scholarly writing. The papers were published in highly reviewed journals. Then as a professor and academic researcher, I wrote many papers published in technical journals in my field and authored a book as well as parts of books. After I left my academic career, I wanted to write the memoirs. When I would first write and show it to people, for example in my writing group, they would say to me, “you write more like your trying to prove an argument or explore a set of points.” I guess they felt what I wrote is dry and lacks personal expression. It didn’t take me long to figure out creative writing is very different from scholarly writing, and I enrolled in continuing education courses on creative nonfiction at Brown University. We had to write a new piece for every class session, and got valuable feedback, mainly by the instructor, but also by participating students.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
The early mornings, and I mean early—4:30 AM—is when I find it easiest to write. I write for about two to three hours, then I get ready for the rest of the day. Then I write some more before lunch time. A nap after lunch is a must. Then, I spend a good portion of the day reading, a habit I picked up when I was still in primary school, as you’ll find out when you read Looking West. I am sure, you can tell, I don’t do real work. I am a retired professor.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
After four or five pages of writing, I like to read aloud what I wrote. This helps me make sure I am not writing a thesis, but telling a story.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As I mention in Looking West, when I was still in Beirut, sitting at the dinner table, I told my family in America, I want to work in the realm of the mind. When my father asked what do I mean, I said I mean the realm of ideas, I want to become a great thinker, and write books. This was very different than what most children my age in my family circle said they wanted to be when they grew up—Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, business people.


To learn more about Albert, feel free to check out any of his other virtual book tour stops:

Launch Day – April 8th
Albert Nasib Badre launches his tour of "Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant” with an interview and giveaway at the Muffin!

April 11th @ World of My Imagination with Nicole Pyles
Nicole Pyles shares her review of "Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant" with readers at World of My Imagination. Don't miss a chance to learn more about this heroic memoir.

April 12th @ Bring on Lemons with Crystal Otto
Crystal Otto shares a 5 star review or the touching and empowering memoir "Looking West" by Albert Nasib Badre.

April 15th @ Selling Books with Cathy Stucker
Cathy Stucker interview Albert Nasib Badre about his empowering memoir "Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant". Readers at Selling Books are looking forward to learning more about this touching journey.

April 16th @ To Write or Not to Write with Sreevarsha Sreejith 
Sreevarsha Sreejith reviews “Looking West” by Albert Nasib Badre. Don't miss this opportunity to hear from Sreevarsha and visit To Write or Not to Write.

April 16th @ Lisa Haselton Reviews and Interview
Don't miss today's empowering and honest interview between Lisa Haselton and Albert Nasib Badre - you will want to learn more about "Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant" in this touching memoir.

April 17th @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Well known book reviewer and fellow memoirist Linda Appleman Shapiro reviews "Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant" by Albert Nasib Badre.

April 19th @ Memoir Revolution with Jerry Waxler
Jerry Waxler thoroughly enjoyed reader "Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant" by Albert Nasib Badre and shares his thoughts with readers at Memoir Revolution. Don't miss this insightful review of Badre's touching memoir.

April 22nd @ Author Anthony Avina
Author Anthony Avina delights readers at his blog as he reviews the moving memoir "Looking West" by Albert Nasib Badre.

April 23rd @ Beverley A. Baird
Beverley A. Baird reviews the memoir "Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant" by Albert Nasib Badre.

April 26th @ Breakeven Books
Today's author spotlight at Breakeven Books is none other than memoirist and immigrant Albert Nasib Badre with his touching story "Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant". Don't miss this opportunity to learn more about this inspirational coming of age memoir.

April 30th @ Choices by Madeline Sharples
Today's guest post titled "The Backstory: Letters, Photos, and Conversations" is penned by Albert Nasib Badre. Don't miss this great post and opportunity to learn about Badre's memoir "Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant"

May 1st @ Lisa M. Buske
Description:Fellow author Lisa M. Buske reviews the inspirational and touching memoir Looking West by Albert Nasib Badre. Don't miss this opportunity to hear Lisa's thoughts on this powerful story.

May 7th @ Bring on Lemons with Karen Levy
Israeli-American author Karen Levy reviews "Looking West; The Journey of a Lebanese-American Immigrant" by Albert Nasib Badre.

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