Hazleton’s work focuses on the intersection of politics and religion, history and current affairs. A former psychologist, she reported on the Middle East from Jerusalem for more than a dozen years, writing for Time, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, and Harper’s, among other publications.
Her previous book, After the Prophet: the epic story of the Shia-Sunni split, was a finalist for the PEN-USA Book Award. Earlier books have won several awards, including the Washington Book Award for Mary: a flesh-and-blood biography.
Her blog The Accidental Theologist casts “an agnostic eye on politics, religion, and existence.”
Born in England (thus the accent), she became a US citizen in 1994. She was based in Jerusalem from 1966 to 1979, and in New York City from 1979 to 1992, when she moved to Seattle, originally to get her pilot’s license.
Among recent honors, she received The Stranger’s Genius Award in Literature in 2011, and served as the Inaugural Scholar-in-Residence at the Town Hall Seattle civic and cultural center in 2012.
“Everything is paradox,” she has said. “The danger is one-dimensional thinking.”
Her 2010 TEDx talk on reading the Quran is here, as is her 2012 TEDx talk on ‘Seeing Muhammad — and each other — whole.’
For more on what led her to write The First Muslim, see the Q and A with Religion Dispatches here.
About herself as The Accidental Theologist:
“I never meant for this to happen. I’m a psychologist by training, a Middle East reporter by experience, an agnostic fascinated by the vast and often terrifying arena in which politics and religion intersect. And as a result, an accidental theologist.
“Perhaps the thirteen years I lived and worked in Jerusalem have a lot to do with it—a city where politics and religion are at their most incendiary. Or my childhood as the only Jew in a Catholic convent school, which somehow left me with a deep sense of mystery but no affinity for organized religion. Or the fact that I’ve spent the past fifteen years writing on the roots of conflict in the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
“What this means is that my life, like my head, is full of anomalies, a fact that both bemuses and intrigues me. It makes things interesting. Whether as agnostic, as psychologist, or as writer, I’m always asking questions—not to find “answers,” but to see where the questions lead. Dead ends sometimes? That’s fine. New directions? Interesting. Great insights? Over-ambitious. A glimpse here and there? Perfect.
“So you’ll find none of the comfort of received opinion here. No claim to truth, let alone Truth (that capital T always makes me nervous). None of that astounding confidence (aka hubris) that cloaks ignorance and prejudice. The aim is to question, to explore, to keep my mind—and yours—open.
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