Ahlan wa sahlan!
Thank you for joining in with us in the Year of the Middle Eastern Reading Challenge (YMERC).
As promised, I will begin each month with:
- A book by a Middle Eastern author
- A graphic novel by a Middle Eastern author and/or Middle Eastern illustrator
- A new Arabic song to listen to throughout the month
At the end of each month, I’ll post:
- My reviews on the books and graphic novels of the month
- A Middle Eastern movie or TV show that I enjoyed that month
I’m really excited to share with you our FIRST ever #YMERC2020 titles!
#YMERC Book of the Month
The Unexpected Love Objects of Dunya Noor: A Novel by Rana Haddad
Once a respected landowner, Abd el-Aziz Gaafar fell into penury and moved his family to Cairo, where he was forced into menial work at the Automobile Club—a refuge of colonial luxury for its European members. There, Alku, the lifelong Nubian retainer of Egypt’s corrupt and dissolute king, lords it over the staff, a squabbling but tight-knit group, who live in perpetual fear, as they are thrashed for their mistakes, their wages dependent on Alku’s whims. When, one day, Abd el-Aziz stands up for himself, he is beaten. Soon afterward, he dies, as much from shame as from his injuries, leaving his widow and four children further impoverished. The family’s loss propels them down different paths: the responsible son, Kamel, takes over his late father’s post in the Club’s storeroom, even as his law school friends seduce him into revolutionary politics; Mahmud joins his brother working at the Club but spends his free time sleeping with older women — for a fee, which he splits with his partner in crime, his devil-may-care workout buddy and neighbor, Fawzy; their greedy brother Said breaks away to follow ambitions of his own; and their only sister, Saleha, is torn between her dream of studying mathematics and the security of settling down as a wife and saving her family.
It is at the Club, too, that Kamel’s dangerous politics will find the favor and patronage of the king’s seditious cousin, an unlikely revolutionary plotter–cum–bon vivant. Soon, both servants and masters will be subsumed by the brewing social upheaval. And the Egyptians of the Automobile Club will face a stark choice: to live safely, but without dignity, or to fight for their rights and risk everything.
Full of absorbing incident, and marvelously drawn characters, Alaa Al Aswany’s novel gives us Egypt on the brink of changes that resonate to this day. It is an irresistible confirmation of Al Aswany’s reputation as one of the Middle East’s most beguiling storytellers and insightful interpreters of the human spirit.
#YMERC Graphic Novel of the Month
Arab in America by Toufic El Rassi
The eye-opening story of the life of an average Arab-American struggling with his identity in an increasingly hostile nation. Using the graphic novel as his medium, Lebanon-born Toufic El Rassi chronicles his experience growing up Arab in America. Keen observations, clever insights and painful honesty make El Rassi’s work shine as a critical 21st century memoir. From childhood through adolescence, and as an adult, El Rassi illustrates the prejudice and discrimination Arabs and Muslims experience in American society. He contends with ignorant teachers, racist neighbors, bullying classmates, and a growing sense of alienation. El Rassi recounts his personal experiences after the 9/11 attacks and during the implementation of new security and immigration laws that followed. El Rassi gives context to current world events, providing readers with an overview of the modern history of the Middle East, including the Gulf wars. He also examines the roles American films and news media play in creating negative stereotypes of Arab-Americans, showing how difficult it is to have an Arab identity in a society saturated with anti-Arab images and messages.
#YMERC Arabic Song of the Month
Song by Hussein el Deek, Mahlaki.
Born in 1984 in Syria, Hussein EL Deek is a popular singer who grew up in a large artistic family. He started his career as a professional artist in 2000 with the title Nater Bent Al Madrasa (School Girl Nater). He later collaborated with the maestro Talal Da’our to make the song Petit monde a monster record.**
Don’t forget to spread the word on WordPress, Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #YMERC2020.
*The beautiful blog graphic is done by liv_does.