Gregory Orfalea


Adjunct Instructor of English
Visiting Writer-in-Residence

Phone: (805) 565-7318
Office Location: Reynolds Hall 205

Office Hours
Fall 2014
MWTh 2:00 - 4:00 PM
and by appointnment

Fiction writing, creative writing, journalistic writing, short story, poetry


By Gregory Orfalea

            As for the Truth.

            I confess.  I seek it.  I’m drawn to writers who seek it.  There is no writer worth his or her salt who doesn’t yearn for it, pray for it, let blood and position for it, hunt it, dice it, and serve it raw to readers.  But. . .suffice it to say that more writers have died short of the truth than there are grains of sand in the Sahara.  And sadder—many have died because they have uttered a most disturbing grain of truth to a society otherwise blind, deaf, and dumb to it.

            So, why write?  Not for money, sex, or status.  What’s left if not for psychic health, social justice, or the truth itself?  Why don’t we all just give up the ghost before it breaks our hearts, our relationships, not to mention our wallet?  (As they say on TV with no little menace, “What’s in your wallet?”)

            Well, in my dilapidated wallet is a reason to write which keeps me going when all else fails:  I love it!  I love it because short of lovemaking itself, writing is one of the few human activities that can add more life to this sorry life that we have.  As Anthony Hecht wrote, echoing Goethe on his deathbed and thinking of a Polish guard who gave his life for the Jews, “More light!  More light!”  Well, the writer who does it right can say, “More life!  More life!”  When you write, you are preserving like a flesh-and-blood museum facets of human desire and struggle and joy and pain as they are caught in the magma, as they were lived, breathed.  And if you do this catching, this cooling of the ultra-hot, if you do it well, you preserve it past your own breathing.

            Consider:  There is no human instrument, not the fastest laptop—not even a legion of cameras—that can record life as it happens.  Life itself is a tragedy because in its very enactment it is dying; each second dies to give life to the next.  Even the most attentive person will not replicate or recall life’s most portentous and fullest moments.  But art—and literature especially—has the ability to distill, to choose if you will, the representative  moments, distancing, combining, bending the real to a greater capital-R Real which transcends time.

            To put it simply, when you are depressed, when the Palestine conflict goes on and on, when the gun never ceases its passage from Dallas to Columbine to Virginia Tech—and the Afghan war goes on and on and on, beyond, it seems, any good pen’s hope or effort, when your child is sick beyond the grip of words, when the editors nod and the agents flee—take heart.  You are creating new life.  You are giving life itself—and not the least, your life—a second chance.

--from “Why Write?” in Angeleno Days (2009)




  • MFA, University of Alaska, Creative Writing
  • B.A., Georgetown University, Honors English



  • Visiting Professor, Fiction Writing, Claremont Graduate University, 2010
  • Undergraduate writing, Westmont College and Cal Lutheran University, 2010
  • Lecturer/Adjunct Instructor, Georgetown University, 2008-2010
  • Assistant Professor, Creative Writing at Pitzer College, Claremont, CA 2004-2007
  • Director of Pitzer’s Center for Writing
  • Co-director of Georgetown University’s Symposium on Arab American Literature (2012); Director of the Claremont College Writing Festival, “September 11:  The Writer’s Imagination and Conscience” (2004) with Naomi Shihab Nye, Christopher Dickey,et al.
  • Director of 14 tutors and writing coordinator helping students rewrite papers
  • Developer of Intercollegiate Writing Major concept at the Claremont Colleges
  • Teach The Art and Craft of the Short Story, The Writing Process, Creative Nonfiction, Writing Los Angeles, Memoir and Autobiography, and Workshop in Journalistic Writing
  • Translator of Arabic poetry; own work translated into Arabic, Polish, and German

Government Posts

  • George Washington University, University of Alaska, Santa Barbara City College
  • Writer-in-residence at Stevenson School, Pebble Beach, CA
  • Stanford University’s Center for Talented Youth program with Johns Hopkins University
  • Writer-in-Residence at Miramonte Elementary School in Southcentral Los Angeles
  • Poet-in-the-Schools, Lewiston-Nez Perce-Soda Springs, Idaho
  • Freddie Mac, Director of Executive Communications and Chief Speechwriter
  • Resolution Trust Corporation, Director of Public Affairs, Affordable Housing


  • 2010 Arab American Book Award
  • DC Council on the Arts and Humanities (two grants)
  • Institute for Contemporary Studies Grant
  • Callifornia Arts Council grant; Ithaca House Poetry Prize
  • National Association of Government Communicators Blue Pencil Award
  • Edward B. Bunn Award for Journalistic Excellence, Georgetown University
  • Judge, PEN Center USA Award in Research Nonfiction



  • The Man Who Guarded the Bomb, Stories, Syracuse University Press, 2010
  • Angeleno Days:  An Arab American Writer on Family, Place, and Politics, UArizona Press, 2009
  • Obama’s First 150 Days:  Perspectives from An Arab American Writer, Georgetown, 2009
  • The Arab Americans:  A History, Olive Branch Press/Interlink, 2006
  • Up All Night:  Practical Wisdom from Mothers and Fathers, w/B. Rosewicz, Paulist Press, 2004
  • Grape Leaves, A Century of Arab American Poetry (ed. with Sharif Elmusa), Interlink Publishers, 2000, (reprint of University of Utah Press 1988 edition)
  • Messengers of the Lost Battalion (The Heroic 551st and the Turning of the Tide at the Battle of the Bulge), The Free Press/Simon and Schuster, 1997
  • Before the Flames: A Quest for the History of Arab Americans, University of Texas Press, 1988
  • The Capital of Solitude (poems), Ithaca House, 1988

Memoirs and Essays

  • Washington Post, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Baltimore Sun, Antioch Review
  • Michigan Quarterly Review, American Studies International, MELUS, Journal of American Ethnic History

Fiction and Poetry

  • Antioch Review, Banipal, California Quarterly, Christian Science Monitor, Greenfield Review, Kansas Quarterly, Jewish Currents, Mizna, Northwest Review, Poet Lore, Triquarterly, 2Plus2

Textbooks and Anthologies

  • In Thyme:  Middle Eastern American Literature, Syracuse University Press, forthcoming 2011
  • Papa, PhD:  Essays on Fatherhood by Men in the Academy, Rutgers U. Press, 2010
  • Inclined to Speak:  An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Poetry, U. of Arkansas, 2008
  • Etching Our Own Image:  Arab American Art Movement, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007
  • Multiculturalism in the United States, Greenwood Press, 2005
  • Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2000
  • The Norton Introduction to Poetry, W.W. Norton, 1995
  • New Worlds of Literature: Writing from America’s Many Cultures, W.W. Norton, 1994
  • The Oxford Companion to Women’s Literature, Oxford University Press, 1994
  • Visions of America: Personal Narratives from the Promised Land, Persea Books, 1993
  • American Mosaic: Multicultural Readings in Context, Houghton Mifflin, 1991
  • Imagining America: Tales from the Promised Land, Persea Books, 1991
  • Triquarterly’s Best Fiction of the 1980s (1990)


  • What is a Story?” Ann Arbor Public Library, Lemoyne U., Georgetown U., 2010
  • “Rose & the Four Sisters of Fate,” Kansas State U. conf. on Arab Amer. Women, 2009
  • “Growing Up Arab in Los Angeles,” USC, UCLA, UC Davis, U. Arizona, 2009
  • “Why Write?” Arab American National Museum, DIWAN conference, Detroit, 2007
  • “The Arab American Novel,” panel chair, Associated Writers Program conference, 2006
  • “An Introduction to Arab American Women Writers,” Folger Shakespeare Library, 2002
  • “Five Mysteries,” U.S. National Archives, broadcast on C-SPAN, January 1999