Book Review: Waiting for Paradise February 26, 2015 18:00

An entertaining and exciting novel, Waiting For Paradise deals with the massacre at Deir Yassin and the ethnic cleansing that it ushered in. There are hundreds of books written on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, of course, but most deal with it from the Israeli point of view. In standard American vernacular, this book tells the Palestinian side of 1948—and for that reason is likely to be shunned by most major presses.

Book Review: I`jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody February 22, 2015 15:30

I`jaam is a story told through a series of remembrances and prison writings of a young dissident intellectual imprisoned and tortured by a dictatorial “leader.” The undotted manuscript—missing the Arabic diacritical marks, or i`jaam, necessary for clarity—tells an ambiguous story. While the words and phrases are open to interpretation, however, the chronicle itself is not.

Book Review: The Almond Tree February 2, 2015 11:00

We first meet 7-year-old Ichmad Hamid in 1955, as he guides his father through a field of landmines in the West Bank of Palestine to retrieve what’s left of the boy’s tiny sister Amal. As the household prepared for a holiday celebration the toddler climbed out of her crib to follow a red butterfly into their field—which Israel has designated a “Closed Area.” Ichmad guides his “baba” using a map he drew as he watched Israeli soldiers plant mines in the family’s land.

Book Review: In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story January 25, 2015 23:00

Like Edward Said’s Out of Place, Karmi’s memoir is a story of loss and alienation, but it is also a story of growth, adaptation and reclamation. I cried when I read the first page, and I cried again at the end. In the pages that depicted Karmi’s life in between, however, I traveled with her back to her early days, when the incomprehensible events of 1948 punctuated her childhood bliss. Her ensuing exile to Damascus, at first painful, soon evolved into more of an extended family reunion; testimony of a child’s resilience. When only the nuclear family moved to England, however, where her father could find work with the BBC’s Arabic serivice, Karmi was exiled once again, and once again she adapted.

Book Review: The Yacoubian Building January 17, 2015 01:30

Since it was first released in Arabic in 2002, The Yacoubian Building has been shrouded by controversy in a country where the Ministry of Information (and, by extension, the state-owned media) have a history of controlling content with an iron fist. By using non-traditional characters, Al Aswany sheds light on a number of the country’s most sensitive taboos, most notably corruption, prison torture, homosexuality, and the rise of fundamental Islam. Thus the underlying tension, which the novel boldly puts forth, is one of religious morality versus secularism, and one of tradition versus modernity.

Book Review: Gertrude January 5, 2015 14:00

The provocative Moroccan poet, journalist and translator Hassan Najmi has written an absorbing, speculative tale of Gertrude Stein’s real-life visit to Tangier. The book’s narrator, a poet and journalist from modern-day Morocco named Abu Hasan, relates the deathbed confessions of Muhammad, who claims to have had an affair with Gertrude Stein in his youth. Using a narrative style that veers between emotive poetry and understated minimalism, Abu Hasan describes Muhammad’s burgeoning affair with Stein in Tangier.