"The Egyptian Assassin" by Ezzedine C. Fishere Is An Ambitious Thriller That Doesn't Quite Hit Its Mark
by Rana Asfour
Shortlisted for the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, ‘The Egyptian Assassin’ by Ezzedine C. Fishere is a novel published by Hoopoe & translated from the Arabic by award-winning Jonathan Wright.
The 2019 thriller centres around lawyer-turned-terrorist, Fakhereddine, who is catapulted on a mission traversing Cairo, Sudan, Paris and Afghanistan written by a Middle East political insider.
Once an idealistic young lawyer, seeking to fight corruption from his modest quarter of Cairo, he is now on the run after a botched attempt on his life. After two years in Paris, extenuating events lead him to a jihadi training camp in Afghanistan where he is transformed into a trained killer while never once losing sight of his goal to return home & seek revenge on those who ruined his life.
Here’s what the judges’ panel of the Banipal Prize said of the novel:
‘...Behind the high-octane caper, however, lies a more serious narrative, exploring themes of global politics and finance and of radicalisation in contemporary autocratic states. Fishere’s novel touches on issues of corruption, fundamentalism, fatherly love and the catastrophic effects of violence on the human spirit."
Although I didn’t ‘love’ the novel, I do think it’s worth giving it a go. It’s in a genre & style one doesn’t come across often in Arabic lit. That said, I personally found certain parts long, a bit too diary-esque to my liking & certain details quite far fetched even for a fictitious tale. There are two romantic threads in there that I found didn’t sit well with me: one I found close to a stereotypical depiction of women in a 70s Egyptian film (not a compliment by the way) & the other one left me baffled as to its purpose in the story other than to pander to Western expectations of fiction that comes out from the Middle East.
For once, I hope I’m wrong on both counts.
Read it & let’s talk!
"Summer Brother" by Jaap Robben Is A Tender Honest Tale About About Brotherly Love Coming Your Way This February
by Rana Asfour
“Summer Brother” by Japp Robben, trans. from the Dutch by David Doherty. World Editions (288p) - released February 9, 2021
Jaap Robben’s second novel, translated from the Dutch by David Doherty, is the tender tale of the bond between brothers. Set to release February 2021 by World Editions, “Summer Brother” is the tale of thirteen-year-old Brian, who since his parents’ divorce, lives with his odds job, detached dad, Maurice, in a run-down trailer that they rent from two shady brothers Jean and Brown Henri. A new tenant, Emile, has just moved in to the trailer close to Brian’s. Lucien, Brian’s brother, lives in a group home due to congenital mental and physical disability. His unresponsiveness to his brother’s interactions with him represents Brian with conflicting thoughts on whether his brother actually exists beyond the days when he sees him.
I don’t think I missed Lucien. He just wasn’t there. It wasn’t like he’d disappeared, more like someone had switched him off. Put him to sleep. Like he dozed off after every visit and dreamt of us all week long. And on Sundays, right before we pulled into the car park, a nurse would wake him up." -- "Summer Brother" by Jaap Robben
On an unscheduled visit with Lucien everything takes a turn: Brian’s mum has left on honeymoon without so much as a word to Brian or his dad, Lucien’s facility is being renovated for the summer and management are struggling to find temporary accommodation for him and Brian is smitten by Selma, the nineteen-year-old resident at Lucien’s group home who dances the ‘Belly-Belly’ with him.
After much deliberation, and the promise of a monetary reimbursement, Brian’s dad finally agrees to take on Lucien’s month-long care despite his landlords’ re-instated warnings that the place is not fit for any child. As soon as they’re home, Maurice decides to deal with the added burden of Lucien’s presence in the way he deals with all his troubles; by ignoring them completely. And so, to this effect, the task of Lucien’s daily needs is relegated to Brian who is left alone to deal with Brian’s hygiene, nourishment and dispensation of his medication. But, how, questions Brian, is he supposed to know what his brother needs when they can’t communicate? Resourceful and observant, Brian is also instinctively altruistic and constantly laboring to do the right thing. Regarding the task as a chance for him to share precious time with a brother he misses, he puts his heart into his task all the while questioning his father’s ineptitude as a parent, resenting his place in the world as his father’s son and figuring out how he’s going to keep his promise to Selma to visit with her.
Can you manage without help?”
Quickly, things deteriorate not only for Maurice when his landlords threaten to evict him if he does not pay his accumulating rent, but also with Brian, who, as reliable as ever, nonetheless struggles to juggle his duties between keeping a constant eye on his brother and his guilty feelings when he leaves him alone to visit with Selma, never mind the disastrous consequences that incure. His only possible solace in all this is Emile, who he seems to develop an attachment to but Maurice’s instant dislike of Emile only adds embers to a raging novel headed towards what threatens to be a complete and utter scorcher.
“Summer Brother” is on some level a very sad, at times distressing novel not only with regards the harsh world that some teenagers exist in, especially when surrounded by damaged role models specifically and disengaged adults generally, but also on how disability impacts the family system as well as society’s response when it comes face to face with it. The disability can consume a disproportionate share of a family's resources of time, energy, and money, so that other individual and family needs go unmet coupled with the guilt when assistance is required, all contributing to marital homes buckling under the pressure as in the case of Brian’s family. That said, though, the novel is an equally warm, humorous, and deeply affective one in which all the characters feel believable. The writer, and in turn the translator, opts for sparse language and candid humor to handle a novel with sensitive themes centered on disability, sex and even poop-filled diapers, with a respect and a nuance that steers clear of melodrama and stereotype.
Readers cannot help but root for Brian and Lucien’s summer and what might prove to be a once in a lifetime chance at creating a shared memory. Despite the shocking end, readers, and this one in particular, are left reminded of the undeniable truth that for love -- a complicated concept in and of itself that people demonstrate differently -- to subsist, the ingredients don’t have to be perfect. “Summer Brother” makes for a perfect Book Club Choice (check out a list of questions by the publisher HERE)
Jaap Robben is a poet, playwright, performer, and acclaimed children's author. "You Have Me to Love", his first novel for adults won the 2014 Dutch Booksellers Award, the Dioraphte Prize, and the ANV Award for best Dutch debut. Robben was chosen as one of the featured debut authors at the 2018 Brooklyn Book Festival. "Summer Brother" is a bestseller in the Netherlands and is his second novel.
David Doherty studied English and literary linguistics in the UK before moving to the Netherlands, where he has been translating all manner of Dutch texts since 1996. He was commended by the jury of the 2017 Vondel Translation Prize for Marente de Moor's (The Dutch Maiden) and Jaap Robben's "You Have Me to Love" and was runner-up in 2019 for his translation of "Monte Carlo" by Peter Terrin.
by Rana Asfour
The Book: 'A Land Like You' by Tobie Nathan / Translated by Joyce Zonana
‘Egyptian! ... I was born in Cairo, like everyone. And Cairo is in Egypt, right?
Translated by Joyce Zonana from the French, Tobie Nathan’s part fantastical fable, part realistic history is on the one hand a tempestuous love story between the sensuous dancer & singer Masreya & ruffian turned business man/fixer Zohar. On the other hand it is an account of Cairo’s Jewish community from the early 1920s until its ‘exodus’ in the late 50s.
A story of two lovers unfolds against the backdrop of a country struggling against British occupation, a World War, a crumbling monarchy, Communism vs rising religious fanaticism, a region’s discovery of black oil & Palestine’s partition followed by Arab/Israeli wars that would all together challenge the notion of ‘a real Egyptian’
A compelling all-encompassing tale that uncovers the nitty gritty of people’s daily lives, living peaceably side by side sharing language & superstitions, hopes & dreams, within the Muslim, Coptic & Jewish communities, rich & poor, to weave a closer than ever before picture on the ‘first time, since the Pharaohs of antiquity, Egypt was about to become Egyptian.’
It’s rich, masterfully translated, & complex yet also funny, sensitive and moving. It vibrates with an energy that is in tandem with the vibrancy of a city known to most as ‘Umm el Dunya’ aka ‘Mother of the World’.
Read an excerpt from the 2020 novel published by Seagull Books at The Markaz Review
The Film: Muhammad Malas, Syrian Auteur as Subject of Documentary- A Review
'Unlocking Doors of Cinema' (2019), the first feature-length documentary by Abu Dhabi resident and associate professor at Zayed University, filmmaker and director, Nezar Andary, sheds light on the grand master of Arab auteur cinema, Syrian filmmaker Muhammad Malas. Here's my review published recently in The Markaz Review (click HERE to read)
by Rana Asfour
Nothing beats a book delivery & one in translation too! Can’t wait to dive into this!
From award-winning Tunisian-born author & engineer Yamen Manai comes a stirring allegory about a country in the aftermath of a single quest.
"The Ardent Swarm" centres around bee whisperer, Sidi, who lives on the outskirts of the desolate North African village of Nawa. One morning he wakes to find that a vicious swarm of hornets have killed all the inhabitants of his beehive. Devastated he heads to the city to get answers on where these hornets could have come from & more importantly how to stop them.
Along the way, he discovers a country and a people turned upside down by their new post-Arab Spring reality as Islamic fundamentalists seek to influence votes on the eve of the country’s first democratic elections.
The novel is translated from the French by Lara Vergnaud. She is a literary translator from the French. She is the recipient of the 2019 French Voices Grand Prize and two PEN/Heim Translation Grants, and was a finalist for the 2019 Best Translated Book Award. Her forthcoming translations include works by Joy Sorman, Mohamed Leftah, and Franck Bouysse. She currently lives in Washington, D.C.
by Rana Asfour
Long before Covid-19 captured every single headline in early 2020, ‘American Dirt’ by Jeanine Cummins was having its fair/unfair spot in the limelight. Many were up in arms at Macmillan for extending 6 figures to a writer for a story she was later accused ‘was not hers to tell’. Since then the industry & readers have collectively listened, learned & actively pushed for supporting #ownvoices literature while also continuing the debate whether in fact storytelling is for anyone with a story to tell; real or imagined.
Therefore, and to this latter point, I imagine that Simon And Schuster went ahead to release in August 2020, Micheline Aharonian Marcom’s latest ‘The New American’ which much like ‘American Dirt’, tells the story of Central American characters’ plight crossing into ‘American soil’. Although the author in this case is a woman of color, yet she also has no ties to Central America. Her parents did however immigrate from Saudi Arabia to the US when she was a baby & she is currently the founder & creative director of the online digital storytelling project ‘The New American Storytelling Project’ (NASP)
One thing is certain: ‘The New American’ is exquisite literary writing - subdued & measured. Think TV documentary rather than Hollywood blockbuster. It is also a gripping, harrowing & heartbreaking read that brings to the forefront the anguish & ugliness of deportation & immigration. However, it is SO closely similar to ‘American Dirt’ in so many ways that disregarding a comparison is impossible while reading it & that’s what I found jarred my own enjoyment of the book.
‘The New American’ is a novel about Emilio, a young Guatemalan Berkeley college student - a ‘Dreamer’ - who on turning 17 learns a shocking secret his parents had kept from him: he is an undocumented. Caught by ICE following a car accident, he is deported back to Guatemala where no sooner does he arrive than he sets out to return home to California. His treacherous route takes him across thousands of miles & eventually the Sonoran Desert of the US-Mexico border. The story is inspired by interviews with Central American refugees.
by Rana Asfour
Ingrid Persaud’s novel “Love After Love” is inspired by West Indian poet Derek Walcott’s poem “Love After Love” which happens to be the most perfect poem for the beginning of a new year.
This novel, set in Trinidad and Tobago, is dazzling, heartbreaking & heart mending & a definite must read. I did have to wade through the island’s dialect, but I soon found my feet & succumbed to the magic of the electrifying prose & breezed right through it. Although I must emphasise that it is a read meant to be savoured, not only for its literary offerings but also for its culinary ones as well. By the middle of the book I was drooling over the Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonian dishes. So much so that it’s all I want to eat all of next week.
A multi-themed novel circulating around who & how we love, the obligations of family & the consequences of choices made in desperation. It offered a nuanced unsentimental or sensationalist examination of life in Trinidad & Tobago. What sets it apart is that despite some characters leaving the island in search for a future in the US, the story remained rooted in the island itself. Other themes include domestic violence & self-harm handled with sensitivity.
Things I learnt from this novel:
by Rana Asfour
Re-reading “In the Woods” by American Irish writer Tana French for a book club next week. This debut psychological thriller released in Jan 2007 cemented author Tana French’s mastery of the genre. Combining a character driven plot with captivating storytelling, this is one book that most readers find hard to put down. It’s also one I personally found hard to forget, years after I’d read it. Going back to it now, I find I can still remember it to its tiniest detail. And it’s still atmospheric & magical & bloody creepy.
Three children leave their Dublin neighbourhood & venture into the woods to play. Only one is found hours later gripping a tree trunk in terror wearing blood filled sneakers & unable to recall a single detail. Twenty years later, that boy, now detective Rob Ryan of Dublin Murder Squad, is back at the scene to investigate the murder of a 12-year old girl. Having kept his past a secret, he now finds he’s got a chance at cracking what happened to him in the past as he unravels the mystery of the murder at hand.
This debut, released by @penguinukbooks was to become the first of 11 books in the Dublin Murder Squad series, the last of which was released in 2016. There has already been an 8-episode first series adaptation released in 2019 entitled “Dublin Murders” on STARZ based on the first two books “In the Woods” & “The Likeness”
Other personal favourite books of French that stood out for me include “The Witch Elm” & “The Trespasser” - I’ve got her new standalone novel ‘The Searcher’ (2020) on my TBR pile for 2021!
by Rana Asfour
As is it’s a time when we’re all thinking of beginnings, past & present, I thought it only right to start the year with the book that in a way launched Laila Lalami’s stellar award-winning writing career. "Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits" is also a novel about people in search of a better future & paints a picture of modern-day Morocco.
Published by Harcourt Books in 2005 & just under 200 pages, the novel takes off with a gripping first paragraph:
Fourteen kilometers. Murad has pondered that number hundreds of times in the last year, trying to decide whether the risk was worth it. Some days he told himself that the distance was nothing, a brief inconvenience, that the crossing would take as little as thirty minutes if the weather was good. He spent hours thinking about what he would do once he was on the other side, imagining the job, the car, the house. Other days, he could think only about the coast guards, the ice-cold water, the money he’d have to borrow, and he wondered how fourteen kilometers could separate not just two countries but two universes.
What book are you kick starting the year with?
by Rana Asfour
This book will be released on April 7, 2020
When readers first meet seventeen-year-old Muslim biracial Khayyam Maquet on the first page of Samira Ahmed’s latest YA novel, ‘Mad Bad & Dangerous to Know’, she’s in Paris, on her family’s annual month-long stay in the City of Love ‘staring at her phone screen, looking for love but knowing it’s not going to show up’. Khayyam’s life is in teen chaos: she’s unsure where she stands with her boyfriend Zaid, her submission for an essay contest on a lost Delacroix painting gifted to Alexandre Dumas supposedly screwed up her chances of getting into her dream college, she’s ‘captive’ in a humid city in which ‘air-conditioning is mostly aspirational’ and her best friend Julie is on a ‘dark-ages, technology-free’ family holiday and is thus unreachable. Essentially, where Kayyam would rather be is at home, in Chicago, ‘stewing in self-doubt and woe-is-me pity’.
by Rana Asfour
The author, Nejoud Al-Yagout, spins a psychologically charged tale, 'When the Haboob Sings', around the consequences individuals in a hypocritical society face when they dare to be themselves or to say what they think. All it took in the case of the novel’s protagonist, Dunya Khair, was one article –an ‘unsafe’ one – to create an uproar in a society dominated by its male counterparts, used to shuttering away female dissent. Ironically, when her controversial article is published, it barely causes a ripple in the echelons, until a male cleric responds to it, propelling her into notoriety. She is faced with the dissolution of familial ties, the collapse of her sham marriage, a looming nervous breakdown and solitary imprisonment in a filthy cell where readers meet her for the first time at the start of the book.
by Rana Asfour
The first time I read Adele Parks was in 2013 when I was on a flight from London to Abu Dhabi. I'd downloaded 'The State We're In' mainly because I'm a nervous flyer and reckoned a romantic plot between two strangers who meet on a plane could just be the ideal antidote to hold at bay a baseless, senseless fear that I'd developed out of nowhere. Fast forward several years and I'm happy to report that although my anxieties over flying have acutely diminished, my initial awe at Adele Parks's masterful genius at weaving extraordinary stories from the humdrum of the every day has not. Her 19th novel 'Lies Lies Lies' comes out in September and is as wild a ride as there'll ever be this Fall Season.
by Rana Asfour
BookFabulous is over the moon for the triumph of 'The Watermelon Boys' by Iraqi-Welsh author Ruqaya Izzidien whose book we raved about on the BookFabulous Instagram feed just before its publication. The author was one of six winners to receive the 2019 Betty Trask Award bestowed annually by the Society of Authors presented for a first novel by a writer under 35. Judged by Ben Brooks, Elanor Dymott and Vaseem Khan, its past winners include Zadie Smith, David Szalay, Hari Kunzru and Sarah Waters.
by Rana Asfour
'Slave Old Man' by Patrick Chamoiseau recently won The Best Translation Award for fiction for 2019. Translated from the French and Creole by Linda Coverdale and published by The New Press in 2018.
by Rana Asfour
Independent Bookstore Day (aka Indie Bookstore Day) in the US is a one day only event and it falls on the last Saturday of April (April 27 this year). In its fifth year now, this is a great opportunity for the community to show the love and offer support to their favourite local bookstores.
It started in California in 2014 before becoming the national party it is today. But in addition to authors, live music, cupcakes, scavenger hunts, kids events, art tables, readings, barbecues, contests, and other fun stuff, there are exclusive books and literary items that you can only get on that day. Not before. Not after. Not online. And this year, a 'Book Crawl' is on the agenda so you can book yourself silly!
by Rana Asfour
Picture this: you wake up one morning and decide you're going to write a book. Something you've never done before but your mind's made up. You decide on a children's book maybe because your childhood best friend, who's an illustrator, can scribble out the pictures for you. You think you'll make it about a female Water Bear (although not really a bear, it's still a badass) on a journey to the Antarctic as part of a quest to find a super-hero because you figure everyone loves a superhero and why shouldn't the adventurer be a female? Just before it's published you reassure yourself that although you know your book is really good, that won't necessarily mean others will find it so. But 'it's ok' you repeat to yourself because it's the first time you've ever written a book. Like ever. Unknown to you at the time that not only would your book find success here among earthly mortals but that it would skyrocket all the way into space. Literally, SKYROCKET INTO OUTER SPACE.
Shereen Malherbe: 'Seeking to understand people as humans must be the basis for more understanding and in climates where fear is induced by exacerbating differences, another narrative is needed'
by Rana Asfour
This month saw British Palestinian author Shereen Malherbe's much anticipated second novel published by Beacon Books hit the shelves. 'The Tower' is the story of two women who become friends after bonding over their altered circumstances. Neighbours in a communal building in London, Reem, a recently arrived refugee from Syria, and Leah, a British single mother from Kensington forge a friendship as they learn to navigate a life foreign from anything they knew before. Despite the tragedy at the core of this book, it is a novel about hope and resilience in which Malherbe explores life in a tower block and what it's like to share a public space in daily proximity with residents who come from different religious, socio-economic or ethnic backgrounds and how that affects the general well being and social structure of the tower dwellers not only when times are good but when they are far from good as well. You can read my full review HERE.
Read Shereen Malherbe's full Interview with BookFabulous HERE.
by Rana Asfour
Reem is a Syrian refugee who has arrived in London, trying to discover the whereabouts of her 10-year old brother, Adar. Obsessed with history and consumed by her fragmented memories of home, Reem is also hiding secrets she hopes will never be revealed. After being placed in a tower block, she befriends Leah; a single mother who has been forced to leave her expensive South Kensington townhouse. Their unlikely friendship supports them as they attempt to find their place in a relentless, heaving city, and come to terms with the homes they left behind - 'From the book's backcover'
‘The Tower’ is published by Beacon Books and will be released April 17
by Rana Asfour
At eighteen years old, Wang Ting-Kuo’s soon to be father-in-law gave him an ultimatum: either continue to be a writer or give up my daughter. Wang, who despite having already taken the literary world by storm, chooses love.
It wasn’t until several years later, when having made his fortune in property that Ting-Kuo returned to writing. In 2015, he released ‘My Enemy’s Cherry Tree’ which has since won three of Taipei’s literary prizes. The novel which marks his English-language debut is released by Granta and is translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-Chun Lin who have translated over a dozen novels, including those by Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan.
To be released in the UK on April 4, 2019
by Rana Asfour
'Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi' by Hanan Sayed Worrell is designed for food and travel lovers everywhere. This unique book, published by Rizzoli New York, presents Abu Dhabi as a global crossroads of culinary experiences. Worrell weaves the words of over 40 individuals who share with her their stories and offer up the recipes that have shaped their life in Abu Dhabi. As such Worrell ends up with a culinary language that she uses as narrative to reveal to her readers the beloved city's dynamic culture, the place she has called home for over 25 years.
by Rana Asfour
Joseph Scapellato’s new novel, 'The Made-Up Man' released by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, is a conversation on finding one’s identity in today’s vast pool of choices. It is also a novel on art - ‘art that engages, and art that estranges. And art that engages-estranges’ - and how they play in our perception of who we are and how we are represented in the different art mediums.
'Dark Leopard, Red Wolf' Author Marlon James Oozes Charm as He Announces That His Dark Star Trilogy will be going to the Movies
by Rana Asfour
Author Marlon James was invited to speak this evening at an event co-hosted by DC's Politics and Prose Bookshop and Sixth&I. James's new book 'Black Leopard, Red Wolf', which was released Feb 5, is the first book in his Dark Star Trilogy. It was revealed that the rights for the movie have already been secured by Michael B. Jordan.
Exasperated by the lack of representation diversity in fantasy novels in general, he set out to write his own, the culmination of which resulted in the extremely well-received Trilogy. At the event he said: 'The Hobbit isn't real, so you could've included a range of characters in there.'
The author who won the 2015 Booker Prize for his 'A Brief History of Seven Killings' was beyond charming. He worked that full house like putty in his hands and when I got to the book signing of the man who I'd read everything he'd written, and everything written about everything he'd written, the only words I managed were, 'Hi, Thank you, Bye' - like seriously #Duh (hashtag intentional).
I've made a list of the 8 best nuggets on writing Marlon James shared with his audience on the night:
And then there was this:
'Even if I don't have interest in my culture, I still have a right to it' - Marlon James on being asked about cultural appropriation
by Rana Asfour
It's February, which means it's African American History Month here in the US from Feb 1- Feb 28. Here's how BookFabulous and Friends are marking the first week of the month. More events will be added week by week.
As I wait in anticipation of Toni Morrison's latest non-fiction 'The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches and Meditations' to be released Feb 12, I'm acquainting myself with 'Tar Baby', her 1981 novel that I never got round to and which has been described as 'a ravishing reinvention of the love story'. The novel charts all the nuances of obligation and betrayal between blacks and whites, masters and servants, and men and women.
My second choice is 'Washington Black' by Esi Edugyan which was released September 2018 and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize. This latest novel by the author of 'Half-Blood Blues' - also a finalist for the Man Booker Prize in 2011 - is one boy's adventure that takes him from the blistering cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, from the earliest aquariums of London to the eerie deserts of Morocco. It tells a story of self-invention and betrayal, of love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again, and asks the question, What is true freedom?
When I read 'A Brief History of Seven Killings' by Marlon James - a 2015 Booker Prize winner and recipient of the American Book Award - I was blown away by the novel's storyline, its violence, its unique voice and the masterful writing. It was then that I went back and read his first novel 'The Book of Night Women'. To this day, I rate it as one of the the most memorable books I have ever read. Right there in my top four of all time.
On Wednesday Feb 6, a bookclub friend of mine and I are going to hear James speak at a book event hosted by DC's Politics and Prose Bookstore with regards the first instalment in his new Dark Star Trilogy 'Black Leopard, Red Wolf' which hits the shelves on Feb 5. His interview in The New Yorker (Jan 28, 2019) in which he spoke of his forthcoming book as well as his work in general is a powerful read. The article's writer describes the new book as 'not just an African fantasy novel but an African fantasy novel that is literary and labyrinthine to an almost combative degree.'
The organisers of this event wrote on their website: 'Drawing from African history, mythology, and his own rich imagination, Marlon James’ new book is a novel unlike anything that's come before it: a saga of breathtaking adventure that's also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorisation and full of unforgettable characters, it is both surprising and profound as it explores the fundamentals of truth, the limits of power, and our need to understand them both.'
The Library of Congress in DC have launched the 'Omar Ibn Said Collection' online which is the only known extant autobiography written in Arabic by enslaved person in US. The collection consists of 42 digitised documents in both English and Arabic, including an 1831 manuscript in Arabic on "The Life of Omar Ibn Said," a West African slave in America, which is the centrepiece of this unique collection of texts. Some of the manuscripts in this collection include texts in Arabic by another West African slave in Panama, and others from individuals located in West Africa. Check it all HERE.
by Rana Asfour
'Death is Hard Work' by Syrian author Khaled Khalifa is a satirical novel set in a war-ravaged Syria, that meditates on death and dying, love and revenge in a place where fear has become everyone's sole true enemy. The English-language translation will be released by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, on February 12, 2019
'The shame and the silence they had lived through for years were exacting a price, and everyone would pay it, executioners and victims alike'. - 'Death is Hard Work' by Khaled Khalifa
by Rana Asfour
The latest Sarah Jessica Parker imprint for Hogarth (SJP Hogarth) is to be released into the book universe today.
'The Golden Child' by Claire Adam is a psychological novel set in Trinidad following the lives of a family as they navigate impossible choices about scarcity, loyalty, and love.
Early positive reviews such as that by Jennifer Clement, author of 'Gun Love' described it as 'a stunning novel written with force and beauty ... that stands tall beside icons of her tradition like V.S. Naipaul.'
Julie Myerson, author of 'The Stopped Heart' found it 'utterly convincing, horrifying and, ultimately, intensely moving.' She continued, 'it’s almost impossible to believe this small masterpiece is a first novel. Adam is a true and rare talent. I’m in awe.'
However, although Kirkus found it to be a 'fascinating' novel, it found it 'failed to stick its landing'.
by Rana Asfour
Here's a list of books that I'm looking forward to this week. I'll update along the week in case something else catches my eye. Enjoy!
“You can be beautiful, even more beautiful than before.” This is the seductive promise of Dr. Nzinga’s clinic, where anyone can get their lips thinned, their skin bleached, and their nose narrowed. A complete demelanization will liberate you from the confines of being born in a black body—if you can afford it.
In this near-future Southern city plagued by fenced-in ghettos and police violence, more and more residents are turning to this experimental medical procedure. Like any father, our narrator just wants the best for his son, Nigel, a biracial boy whose black birthmark is getting bigger by the day. The darker Nigel becomes, the more frightened his father feels. But how far will he go to protect his son? And will he destroy his family in the process?
This electrifying, hallucinatory novel is at once a keen satire of surviving racism in America and a profoundly moving family story. At its center is a father who just wants his son to thrive in a broken world. Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s work evokes the clear vision of Ralph Ellison, the dizzying menace of Franz Kafka, and the crackling prose of Vladimir Nabokov. We Cast a Shadow fearlessly shines a light on the violence we inherit, and on the desperate things we do for the ones we love.
Readers and critics alike raved over USA Today bestselling author Sally Thorne’s smash hit debut, 'The Hating Game', which has sold in over 20 countries. Now she’s back with an unforgettable romantic comedy about a woman who finally has a shot at her long time crush—if she dares.
Crush (n.): a strong and often short-lived infatuation, particularly for someone beyond your reach…
Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.
When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.
Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that's inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.
This next hilarious romance includes a special PS section with two Happily Ever Afters—one for this novel featuring Darcy and Tom and the other, an epilogue featuring fan favorites Lucy Hutton and Josh Templeman from 'The Hating Game'!
A powerful and thought-provoking YA debut from New York Times bestselling author Laura Moriarty.
Imagine a United States in which registries and detainment camps for Muslim-Americans are a reality. Fifteen-year-old Sarah-Mary Williams of Hannibal, Missouri, lives in this world, and though she has strong opinions on almost everything, she isn’t concerned with the internments because she doesn’t know any Muslims. She assumes that everything she reads and sees in the news is true, and that these plans are better for everyone’s safety.
But when she happens upon Sadaf, a Muslim fugitive determined to reach freedom in Canada, Sarah-Mary at first believes she must turn her in. But Sadaf challenges Sarah-Mary’s perceptions of right and wrong, and instead Sarah-Mary decides, with growing conviction, to do all she can to help Sadaf escape.
The two set off on a desperate journey, hitchhiking through the heart of an America that is at times courageous and kind, but always full of tension and danger for anyone deemed suspicious.
'Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House' by Cliff Sims - Published Jan 30 - Thomas Dunn Books
After standing at Donald Trump’s side on Election Night, Cliff Sims joined him in the West Wing as Special Assistant to the President and Director of White House Message Strategy.
He soon found himself pulled into the President’s inner circle as a confidante, an errand boy, an advisor, a punching bag, and a friend. Sometimes all in the same conversation.
As a result, Sims gained unprecedented access to the President, sitting in on private meetings with key Congressional officials, world leaders, and top White House advisors. He saw how Trump handled the challenges of the office, and he learned from Trump himself how he saw the world.
For five hundred days, Sims also witnessed first-hand the infighting and leaking, the anger, joy, and recriminations. He had a role in some of the President’s biggest successes, and he shared the blame for some of his administration’s worst disasters. He gained key, often surprising insights into the players of the Trump West Wing, from Jared Kushner and John Kelly to Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.
He even helped Trump craft his enemies list, knowing who was loyal and who was not.
And he took notes. Hundreds of pages of notes. In real-time.
Sims stood with the President in the eye of the storm raging around him, and now he tells the story that no one else has written―because no one else could. The story of what it was really like in the West Wing as a member of the President’s team. The story of power and palace intrigue, backstabbing and bold victories, as well as painful moral compromises, occasionally with yourself.