The Taqwacores (Review)
reviews* / July 31, 2013

Title: The Taqwacores Author: Michael Muhammad Knight Publication Year: 2004 Pages: 254 Genre: Fiction Source: Purchased from a bookstore in Beirut From the cover: Yusef is living in Buffalo, New York with a group of Muslim punks. A pot-smoking mohawked Sufi called Jehangir plays the rooftop call to prayer on his electric guitar, while debates rage downstairs about the Quranic sources for Iggy Pop songs. With a living-room serving as a mosque by day and hosting punk parties by night, and a hole in the wall marking the direction of Mecca, Yusef’s friends are all dealing with what it means to be young and Muslim in modern-day America. Amidst all this, Yusef embarks on a fascinating, clumsy journey towards faith and love in this surprising and unsettling read. I can definitely tell that this book was written to shock people. The copy that I picked up in Beirut actually turns out to be a bit censored, and when I looked up what had been taken out online, it was often (but not always) something completely gratuitous and offensive. Having said that, the offensive nature of so much that goes on in this book is what makes The Taqwacores so interesting of…

Alif the Unseen (Review)
reviews* / July 12, 2013

Title: Alif the Unseen Author: G. Willow Wilson Publication Year: 2012 Pages: 448 Genre: Fiction Source: Purchased from Kinokuniya From the cover: He calls himself Ali – few people know his real name – a young man born in a Middle Eastern city that straddles the ancient and modern worlds. When Alif meets the aristocratic Intisar, he believes he has found love. But their relationship has no future – Intisar is promised to another man and her family’s honour must be satisfied. As a remembrance, Intisar sends the heartbroken Alif a mysterious book. Entitled The Thousand and One Days, Alif discovers that this parting gift is a door to another world – a world from a very different time, when old magic was in the ascendant and the djinn walked among us. With the book in his hands, Alif finds himself drawing attention – far too much attention – from both men and djinn. Thus begins an adventure that takes him through the crumbling streets of a once-beautiful city, to uncover the long-forgotten mysteries of The Unseen. Alif is about to become a fugitive in both the corporeal and incorporeal worlds. And he is about to unleash a destructive power that…

Diwan Baladna: Arab Culture from an Arab’s Perspective (Review)
reviews* / March 13, 2013

Title: Diwan Baladna: Arab Culture from an Arab’s Perspective Author: Ahmad Kamal Azban Publication Year: 2010 Pages: 147 Genre: Non-Fiction Source: Received as a gift from Zaid, purchased in the Amman airport From the cover: Everything you need to get inside Arab culture you will find in this book. All essential cultural subjects from the perspective of a Jordanian, written in an easy-to-read way to help you thrive, not just survive, in the Arab culture. Explanations of weddings and marriage, funerals, the “evil eye”, why moustaches are important, pigeon keeping, rumors, and much more. Despite the fact that I’ve been living in an Arab country for almost two years now, there are still many aspects of Arab culture that I’m not exposed to in the UAE. Partly, this is because locals are so outnumbered by expat non-Arabs, but this is also simply because we see or hear a lot of things but don’t always understand them. So, with that in mind, Zaid thought that this would be a good book for me to read. I like the format of the book: it’s very easy-to-follow and breaks all the topics down into understandable chunks. It’s a great resource for people who…

The Bite of the Mango (Review)
reviews* / October 18, 2012

Title: The Bite of the Mango Authors: Mariatu Kamara (with Susan McClelland) Narrator: Jessica Almasy Publication Year: 2008 Pages: 216 (audio length: 6 hours 35 minutes) Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com From the cover: As a child in a small rural village in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully surrounded by family and friends. Rumors of rebel attacks were no more than a distant worry. But when 12-year-old Mariatu set out for a neighboring village, she never arrived. Heavily armed rebel soldiers, many no older than children themselves, attacked and tortured Mariatu. During this brutal act of senseless violence they cut off both her hands. Stumbling through the countryside, Mariatu miraculously survived. The sweet taste of a mango, her first food after the attack, reaffirmed her desire to live, but the challenge of clutching the fruit in her bloodied arms reinforced the grim new reality that stood before her. With no parents or living adult to support her and living in a refugee camp, she turned to begging in the streets of Freetown. In this gripping and heartbreaking true story, Mariatu shares with readers the details of the brutal attack, its aftermath and her eventual arrival…

Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land (Review)
reviews* / September 12, 2012

Title: Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land Author: David K. Shipler Narrator: Robert Blumenfeld Publication Year: 1987 Pages: 608 (audio length: 28 hours 1 minute) Genre: Non-Fiction Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com From the cover: The Jew, according to the Arab stereotype, is a brutal, violent coward; the Arab, to the prejudiced Jew, is a primitive creature of animal vengeance and cruel desires. In this monumental work, David Shipler delves into the origins of the prejudices that have been intensified by war, terrorism, and nationalism. Focusing on the diverse cultures that exist side by side in Israel and Israeli-controlled territories, Shipler examines the process of indoctrination that begins in schools; he discusses the far-ranging effects of socioeconomic differences, historical conflicts between Islam and Judaism, attitudes about the Holocaust, and much more. And he writes of the people: the Arab woman in love with a Jew, the retired Israeli military officer, the Palestinian guerilla, the handsome actor whose father is Arab and whose mother is Jewish. I wanted to love this book more than I did. I swear. It has all kinds of promise for exposing the prejudices inherent in the conflict in Israel/Palestine, between Arabs and…