Author details

Leila Aboulela


Leila Aboulela, winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, lives in Aberdeen. She is the author of four novels, The Kindness of Enemies, The Translator, shortlisted for the Saltire Prize, Minaret and Lyrics Alley, Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards. A new collection of her short stories Elsewhere, Home is due for publication in July 2018. Leila’s work has been translated into 15 languages, many of her plays were broadcast on BBC Radio and her writing has appeared in publications such as Granta, Freeman’s and the Guardian.  She grew up in Sudan and moved, in her mid-twenties, to Scotland.

About writer's work

Leila Aboulela’s work is characterized by its distinctive exploration of identity, migration and Islamic spirituality. Highlighting the challenges facing Muslims in Europe and “telling the stories of flawed complex characters who struggle to make choices using Muslim logic”, Aboulela’s work explores significant political issues. Her personal faith and the move, in her mid-twenties, from Sudan to Scotland are a major influence on her work. Leila Aboulela’s works have been included in cultural educational programs supported by the British Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities in the US. One of her short stories ‘Something Old, Something New’, about a young Scottish man from Edinburgh who visits his fiancée’s family in Sudan, is included in the GCSE English Literature syllabus.

Work in progress includes a novel, Bird Summon, about three Muslim women who set out on a journey to the Highlands to visit the grave of Lady Evelyn Cobbold, who in 1933 was the first British woman to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. On the shores of Loch Ness, the women find themselves in a magic realist world. When they attempt to visit Lady Evelyn’s grave up in the hills of her deer estate, they are weighed down by their own previous actions and fantasies as well as restrictions imposed on them due to the stalking season.


  • 2017 Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship for a month-long Arts & Literary Arts residency in Bellagio.
  • 2011  Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Award (Fiction) for Lyrics Alley
  • 2011 Commonwealth Writers Prize (shortlist) for Lyrics Alley
  • 2003  Race and Media Award (shortlist) for the radio drama serialization of The Translator
  • 2002 PEN/McMillan Silver Pen Award (shortlist) for Coloured Lights.
  • 2001 Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award (shortlist) for The Translator
  • 2000 Caine Prize for African Writing for “The Museum” – a short story.

Websites featuring the author

Author's WebsiteFacebook#ThankBooksGCSE short story Leila Aboulela’s 'Something Old, Something New' revisionLeila Aboulela visits her old school in Khartoum, SudanBBC Radio Play ‘The Museum” by Leila Aboulela

Current events and projects




Will be tutoring at Moniack Mhor in summer 2018

Other work

Radio Plays :

  • The Insider – A drama which reimagines the Arab characters of The Outsider broadcast on BBC Radio 3 to mark the centenary of Albert Camus Nov. 2013.
  • The Lion of Chechnya: A play on BBC Radio 3.
  • The Mystic Life: A play on BBC Radio 4 in May 2003.


Book Section:

  • 2017  “Majed” in Gaspard, Lynn  Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic Saqi Books
  • 2017 “The Insider” in Mahfouz, Sabrina The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write Saqi Books
  • 2014 “Aberdeen, UK” in Pericoli, M. Windows on the World. 50 Writers, 50 Views  Pengiun Press
  • 2010 “Something Old, Something New” in AQA GCSE Anthology Sunlight on the Grass, Oxford University Press
  • 2002  “Barbie in the Mosque” in Devine,T and Logue, P eds Being Scottish: Personal Reflections on Being Scottish Polygon
  •  2000  “And My Fate Was Scotland” in MacNeil, K and Finlay, A eds Wish I Was Here Pocketbooks, Polygon


Local authority where they are based


Local authorities where they can work

Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles), Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow, Highland, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Orkney, Other1, Outer Hebrides, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, Shetland, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian

Age groups

Teens, Adults

LL funded


BRAW network


Author type




Books written

Translator cover

The Translator

Author(s): Leila Aboulela
Sammar is a Sudanese widow working as an Arabic translator at a Scottish university.
Minaret cover


Author(s): Leila Aboulela
Najwa, a young Muslim woman -one privileged and secular in Sudan and now working as a maid in London - gradually finds solace and friendship when she starts to attend the local mosque.

Lyrics Alley

Author(s): Leila Aboulela
A wealthy Muslim family in 1950s Sudan must deal with the challenges—and opportunities—of a changing world.
Kindness cover

The Kindness of Enemies

Author(s): Leila Aboulela
In Scotland’s snowy winter of 2010, Natasha, a professor of history, is researching the life of Imam Shamil, the nineteenth century Muslim leader who led the anti-Russian resistance in the Caucasian W