Fiction

Fiction Novels

EGYPT

Arabian Nights and Days by Naguib Mahfouz
From Amazon: “A renowned Nobel Prize-winning novelist refashions the classic tales of Scheherazade in his own imaginative, spellbinding style. Here are genies and flying carpets, Aladdin and Sinbad, Ali Baba, and many other familiar stories, made new by the magical pen of the acknowledged dean of Arabic letters.”

Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz
From Amazon: “Considered by many to be Mahfouz’s best novel,  Midaq Alley centers around the  residents of one of the hustling, teeming back alleys  of Cairo. No other novel so vividly evokes the  sights and sounds of the city. The universality and  timelessness of this book cannot be denied.”

Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany
From NPR: The controversial, best-selling Egyptian novel The Yacoubian Building describes a country that is corrupt, unfair and thuggish. It follows the lives of residents both rich and poor of the Yacoubian, an actual apartment building in downtown Cairo.

IRAQ

9 Parts of Desire, a play by Heather Raffo
From Amazon: “rich monologues [that] bring to life nine distinct Iraqi women whose very different stories convey the complex and harrowing reality of being female in modern-day Iraq.”

Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell
From Amazon: “Gilgamesh is considered one of the masterpieces of world literature, but until now there has not been a version that is a superlative literary text in its own right. Acclaimed by critics and scholars, Stephen Mitchell’s version allows us to enter an ancient masterpiece as if for the first time, to see how startlingly beautiful, intelligent, and alive it is.”

I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody by Sinan Antoon
From Poets and Writers Magazine: “In less than a hundred pages, Antoon provides a moving portrait of life in Saddam’s Iraq. When asked in a 2005 interview if he categorizes himself as an exile or a refugee, Antoon replied, ‘Categories…are ill-suited for encompassing the complexities of our world. They are akin to lines on shores that are incessantly erased by the ebb and flow of reality.'”

ISRAEL

Dancing Arabs by Sayed Kashua
From Publishers Weekly: “Kashua resists stereotype in this slyly subversive, semi-autobiographical account of Arab Israeli life, telling the story of a Palestinian boy who wins a prestigious scholarship to a Jewish high school, but slips into listless malaise as an adult, despising himself, scorning his fellow Arabs and resenting the Israelis.”

LEBANON

The Servant by Fatima Sharafeddine
From Amazon: “Faten’s happy life in her village comes to an abrupt end when her father arranges for her to work as a maid for a wealthy Beirut family with two spoiled daughters. What does a bright, ambitious 17-year-old do when she is suddenly deprived of her friends, family, education, and freedom? Enlisting the help of Marwan… who lives in the next apartment building, Faten finally figures out how to pursue her studies in secret. Even against the uncertain backdrop of the civil war, their romance develops… But in Lebanese society the differences in religion, class, and wealth are stacked against them…An engaging and lucidly written coming-of-age novel.”

MOROCCO

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami
From Amazon: “In her exciting debut, Laila Lalami evokes the grit and enduring grace that is modern Morocco and offers an authentic look at the Muslim immigrant experience today.”

The Sand Child by Tahar Ben Jelloun
Setting is 1950s Morocco. A father decides to raise his eighth daughter as his son, Ahmed, to carry on the family name and hold onto the family’s inheritance. Ahmed’s coming of age and sexual awakening spiral him into an isolated and depressed state that coincides with the linear breakdown of the text as several narrators step up and offer up their own versions of the end of Ahmed’s story.

PALESTINE

Men in the Sun, a novella by Ghassan Kanafani
From a customer review on Amazon: “Kanafani weaves memory with an intense meta-narrative in “Men In the Sun”, through three primary characters that reflect the vulnerability, hardship, and loss of Palestinian refugees. Set in 1958, these characters, a young boy of sixteen, a resistance fighter in his twenties, and an old peasant, all dream of leaving behind their painful past and finding new hope in Kuwait. Their destinies collide when they meet a smuggler who promises a safe journey across the border to a new, happier life. Although his greedy attitude and method of transportation frightens the lot, desperation places the three men in his care.”

Mornings in Jenin: A Novel by Susan Abulhawa
From Publishers Weekly: “Through her eyes we experience the indignities and sufferings of the Palestinian refugees and also friendship and love. Abulhawa makes a great effort to empathize with all sides and tells an affecting and important story that succeeds as both literature and social commentary.”

Returning to Haifa, a novella by Ghassan Kanafani
Popular with Michelle Ramadan’s students! From Book Dragon: “Almost 20 years since Said and Safiyya were driven out of Haifa, they now return and find Miriam, a widowed Jew, living in their home. When the Palestinian couple fled amidst violent confusion, they somehow left their infant son Khaldun behind. Returning to their Haifa home for the first time, Said and Safiyya hope for news of their lost son. Miriam has been waiting for almost two decades, dreading the future of her adopted son Dov … The Solomon-like confrontation between the two sets of parents and the one son that they share by blood and by nurture is a paralyzing situation that will chill every parent, any child.”

Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh
From Kirkus Reviews: “Khalifeh’s initial focus on Usama, a young Palestinian returned home to find his relatives compromised in this way, yields to more diffused depictions of several other characters with whom he finds himself conspiring to blow up buses transporting day-workers. The conspiracy raises havoc with the story’s formal unity but does enable it to portray credibly a troubling spectrum of understandably extreme responses to disenfranchisement and oppression.”

SUDAN

Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih
From Publishers Weekly: “One of the classic themes followed in this complex novel, translated from the Arabic, is cultural dissonance between East and West, particularly the experience of a returned native.”

TURKEY

The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
From Amazon: “Populated with vibrant characters, The Bastard of Istanbul is the story of two families, one Turkish and one Armenian American, and their struggle to forge their unique identities against the backdrop of Turkey’s violent history. Filled with humor and understanding, this exuberant, dramatic novel is about memory and forgetting, about the tension between the need to examine the past and the desire to erase it.”