But You Don't Look Arab

And Other Tales of Unbelonging


By Hala Gorani

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Emmy Award-winning international journalist Hala Gorani weaves stories from her time as a globe-trotting correspondent and anchor with her own lifelong search for identity as the daughter of Syrian immigrants.

What is it like to have no clear identity in a world full of labels? How can people find a sense of belonging when they have never felt part of a “tribe?” And how does a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman who’s never lived in the Middle East honor her Arab Muslim ancestry and displaced family—a family forced to scatter when their home country was torn apart by war?
Hala Gorani’s path to self-discovery started the moment she could understand that she was “other” wherever she found herself to be. Born of Syrian parents in America and raised mainly in France, she didn’t feel at home in Aleppo, Seattle, Paris, or London. She is a citizen of everywhere and nowhere. And like many journalists who’ve covered wars and conflicts, she felt most at home on the ground reporting and in front of the camera.  

As a journalist, Gorani has traveled to some of the most dangerous places in the world, covering the Arab Spring in Cairo and the Syrian civil war, reporting on suicide bombers in Beirut and the chemical attacks in Damascus, watching the growth of ISIS and the war in Iraq—sometimes escaping with her life by a hair. But through it all, she came to understand that finding herself meant not only looking inward, but tracing a long family history of uprooted ancestors. From the  courts of Ottoman Empire sultans through the stories of the citizens from her home country and other places torn apart by unrest, But You Don’t Look Arab combines Gorani’s family history with rigorous reporting, explaining—and most importantly, humanizing—the constant upheavals in the Middle East over the last century.

  • “Full of vivid firsthand accounts of some of the definitive stories of our time, and probing questions about how identity informs our telling and understanding of them. Gorani writes with grace, compassion, humor, and absolute sincerity—a rare combination in broadcast journalism. A gem of a book.”
    CLARISSA WARD, chief international correspondent, CNN
  • But You Don’t Look Arab could be But You Don’t Look Muslim, Christian, Jewish, American. It speaks to anyone who has felt the need to look a certain way, to fit in, to adjust to others’ expectations. Gorani’s deep words and captivating storytelling hit these ideas home every time. Should be added to our immigration application kit!”
    BASSEM YOUSSEF, comedian, author, and television host
  • “I didn’t think it was possible to admire Hala Gorani more until I read But You Don’t Look Arab—a tender, searching, honest account of her quest to understand the nuances of identity in a world that seeks to put her in a box.”
    LAUREN COLLINS, The New Yorker
  • "Hala Gorani weaves an insightful personal and professional journey into strikingly honest prose with agility and humour. A must read from a trailblazer laying bare the world of journalism, the intricacies of the Middle East, and her own search for identity and belonging." 
    LINA KHATIB, Chatham House Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme
  • “Hala Gorani, one of the most influential and articulate analysts on the Middle East and beyond, has written an important and ground breaking book about being a "Blonde Arab" in a world that did not yet recognize diversity. It's about being outspoken, driven, passionate, and brutally honest about the challenges not just facing women in the news industry, but how the massive societal changes have affected the way the news cycle is presented to the world.  As the world split apart post-9/11, Gorani was a first-hand witness with a unique capability to understand events from the Arab Spring to the Syrian war, the terrorist attacks on Paris or American foreign policy's effect in Israel/Palestine. She is one of the very best - and also one of the most generous and responsible of colleagues."
    JANINE DI GIOVANNI, Executive Director of The Reckoning Project and author of The Vanishing: Faith, Loss and the Twilight of Christianity in the Middle East
  • "Gorani's search for belonging resonates with many in the Arab diaspora who feel they don't fully belong— neither in their country of residence nor their country of origin. ... Her humility is powerful. Gorani does not pretend to be an Arab hero but hopes her book can inspire a new generation of journalists—especially Arab women—by sharing an honest account of her personal journey with them. In this regard, the book's openness is commendable."
    Al Majalla
  • "But You Don’t Look Arab is a fabulous read, a journey of searching for identity and belonging.  To the outside world, Gorani is a spectacular success. Known and respected globally, winner of Emmy awards, she appeared to be – and was certainly in our eyes – on top of her profession. Tough, fearless, compassionate, always in the mix.  Yet the pages revealed inner struggles that frankly made her seem so much more human. ... the timeless story of an immigrant family – to any country – feeling alone and confused, yet ultimately succeeding in a spectacular fashion, while always searching for their identity."
    Marc Polymeropoulous, The Cipher Brief

On Sale
Feb 20, 2024
Page Count
288 pages
Hachette Books

Hala Gorani

About the Author

Hala Gorani is one of the best-known international news anchors on television today, with over 20 years’ experience as a journalist on CNN. She anchored Hala Gorani Tonight on CNN International, a prime-time news show broadcast around the world. Throughout her career, Gorani has interviewed the likes of the Dalai Lama, Tony Blair, Malala Yousafzai, Rafik Hariri and other world leaders, but says that her most memorable conversations are those she has with ordinary people whose lives are impacted by extraordinary events. She also regularly interviews popular culture icons like author David Sedaris, actor Robert De Niro or legendary supermodels like Naomi Campbell.

Over the years, Gorani has accumulated a TV and social media following of hundreds of thousands of people. She has reported from every country in the Middle East, and she has won three Emmy awards for her reporting on stories from the region as well as numerous other awards for her work spanning the globe.

Gorani was born in Seattle, WA in the U.S., raised in France, and split her time between London and CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta during her anchoring career. She studied economics in the U.S. and is a graduate of Sciences Po in Paris. She lives in London with her husband and a cuddly cavalier spaniel named Louis.

Learn more about this author