Conversation with Alaa al Aswany

Since the release of his first novel, “The Yacoubian Building,” in 2002, Alaa al Aswany has catapulted from being a dentist with a literary bent to the Arab-speaking world’s best-selling fiction writer. But that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to see patients a couple times a week in his Cairo dental office.

His latest book, “Chicago,” traces the lives of Egyptian emigres in post-9/11 America. It chronicles the immediate challenges faced by newly arrived medical students at the University of Illinois and also the longing for an Egypt left decades before by the professors who teach them.

Al Aswany does not shy away from potentially controversial issues involving sexuality, religion or politics. And “Chicago” is no different. Like “The Yacoubian Building,” which was made into a film in 2006, those sensitive subjects have not lead to widespread backlash or condemnation, but instead placed him among the most-read writers in the Arab world.