Amazon: 5/5 stars
Google books: 3/5
It is a story that mainly focuses on a single mother, Hend, who moves from her homeland, Egypt to Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn heights, Brooklyn along with her seven-year-old son. She does this to escape the emotional shackles of not only a failed marriage but also a restrictive family. So off she goes to America, where, she believes, her dreams will be realized. A suitable place for new beginnings; where she will finally be a writer…
Only, she realizes when she reaches her destination, her goals won’t be as easy to attain as expected and her past won’t be easy to forget and let go of: for starters, a number of things remind her of her homeland.
This is one of the African novels focusing on the life of an emigrant (and her son). Written by Egyptian writer Miral al-Tahawy (who holds a doctorate in Arabic literature awarded by Cairo State University and teaches at Arizona state university), it is a well-researched book that seems to deserve the high rated awarded to it by amazon readers. It was also originally written in Arabic (if you can read it in its original translation, then please do so; Lost in translation and all that…)
This story is a thorough study of immigration and its effects on a person. It addresses the worries these people face. Many leave their homeland for serious reasons but all do so with a picture of a new beginning, a bright future where they can grasp whatever they have been dreaming of attaining. Except, as Miral al-Tahawy shows her readers, it isn’t as easy as it seems to be. This book lets us see just how wide the gap between our dreams and our lives can be – something especially true in the lives of immigrants.
From the conversations and anecdotes in the story, it is obvious that our dear writer did her homework before writing the book. to say that this book tells its readers only about the milestones encountered by African immigrants would be untrue – it covers the problems faced by all immigrants.
There is one warning (if you can call it that) for you all: this book was written in Arabic and translated to English by Samah Selim. So if you can read Arabic, well why not put your skills to use in this case?
Fans of Miral al-Tahawy’s writing style will be pleased to know that this is not her only published work. Some of her other books are The Tent, Blue Aubergine and Gazelle Tracks: A Modern Arabic Novel from Egypt.
Here is a description of her book, Blue Aubergine:
Blue Aubergine tells the story of a young Egyptian woman, born in 1967, growing up in the wake of Egypt’s defeat of that year, and maturing into womanhood against the social and political upheavals Egypt experienced during the final decades of the twentieth century. Physically and emotionally scarred by her parents and the events of her childhood, and incapable of relating to men, Nada, the Blue Aubergine, fumbles through a series of dark and unsettling adventures, resorting first to full Islamic dress with niqab and gloves and then throwing it all off for the flowing hair and tight clothes of an emancipated young graduate student, in an ever more desperate and ultimately failed search for tenderness and affection. A frank assessment of the damage society wreaks by foisting unwise claustrophobic values on its children, this richly woven text shifts unpredictably through time and space like a sojourn in dream time.
If you feel that your cravings for novels from North Africa is not satiated (and I can’t blame those of you who are in this boat), here are a few links to help:
AFRICAN NOVELS REVIEWS