Randa Jarrar had intended to visit her sister in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where her sibling teaches music to children, but things didn’t go as planned.

The award-winning author of “A Map of Home,” “Him, Me, Muhammad Ali” and the new memoir “Love Is an Ex-Country,” was detained at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, confined within what she refers to as the “Arab room.” After more than two hours of waiting and questioning, which she recounts in vivid detail, Jarrar writes that she was denied entry into Israel and sent home.

On a recent phone call, the Los Angeles-based writer recalls the experience. When she left for the trip, she intended to write about it. The story changed, however, and so did her reason for writing.

“I think that was the only way to feel like I had any power during that time,” she says.

“Imagining Myself in Palestine,” one of the essays that comprise Jarrar’s new memoir, points to the complexity of identity. Born in Chicago to a Palestinian father and Egyptian mother, Jarrar was a minor the last time she visited her paternal family’s ancestral homeland. As an adult at Ben Gurion airport, her American passport was of little use, as were the contacts she had in Israel who could vouch for her.

“As an American citizen, I thought I had rights,” she says, while recalling a message on a U.S. government website warning that Arab or Muslim Americans might be questioned or denied entry. “It was this really hilarious way of being told by my country that actually I’m not of my country, and then being told by another country that I was of another country that supposedly didn’t exist.”

She says, “There were so many layers of erasure and weirdness.”

The essay encapsulates many of the themes that run through “Love Is an Ex-Country.” Jarrar seamlessly links together moments in her life to peel back layers of identity and explore concepts of home.

She began work on the memoir in 2015 during a residency at the arts enclave of Marfa, Texas. At that point, Jarrar had recently read Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric” and Maggie Nelson’s memoir “The Argonauts” and was thinking about writing nonfiction.

“But I never felt comfortable writing a full, book-length project,” she explains.

Jarrar says she was keen on telling her story in a non-linear way. “As someone who has survived a lot of abuse and violence and war and all of that stuff, my life isn’t just linear. There are constant triggers that bring you back to moments that are not fun to remember and so the book has that flow to it where things will bounce around time the way that my psyche does. I wanted it to reflect that, to be true to that,” she says, explaining why she declined to compose a more straightforward narrative. “I don’t think that really reflects most people’s lives, especially if you’re marginalized.”

Jarrar explored notes from different eras of her life. She keeps photo diaries, plus video and voice recordings from her travels. She went through scenes that she had previously fictionalized in her work and notes from moments about which she had not previously written. Through that process, she recounts a multitude of experiences, including some particularly intense instances of abuse. “I took a lot of breaks,” says Jarrar of revisiting the points in her life. “I think that’s really important.”

Jarrar takes on a conversational tone in “Love Is an Ex-Country.” She tells multiple, interconnected stories within individual essays, shifting subjects and associating memories without missing a beat and always bringing it back to her larger point by the end. It’s not surprising to learn that Jarrar has been teaching some of her students at California State University Fresno about techniques like oral storytelling. It also is apt that, prior to the pandemic, Jarrar was performing standup in Los Angeles.

“I think of myself as a performer,” she says. “I’ve been performing from my work since I was a teenager and standup just seems like the perfect form of performance. You’re one person. You own that space.”

But there are some drawbacks. “Being a woman on stage is very fraught in different ways,” Jarrar explains. Plus, she adds, “Some people might read me as white; some people may read me as not white enough. So there are strange things that happen when I’m on stage. Or I’ll get tuned out. Or I think people talk over female comedians often.”

Now, though, Jarrar has been veering towards film and writing roles for herself. She recently wrote a feature that’s she’s developing and has also written a short film. She’s also aiming to write a satirical, post-apocalyptic novel, “Lunch at Guantanamo,” for which she earned a Creative Capital award last year.

“I actually feel like I’ve been writing more because there’s nothing to do,” says Jarrar of life during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’ve been dealing with that boringness and isolation by writing a lot more.”

At one point in the past year, she had been drawing and painting as well, but she hasn’t been doing that much lately. “I’ve been feeling more creative this year,” she says.

“I don’t like it though,” she says. “I wish we could just live our lives.”