Classroom Fiction Library Featuring Marginalized Subject Matter: Middle eastern

1. Alaa Al Aswani. The Yacoubian Building. New York: Harper Collins, 2006.
The book evokes very important problems that are typical for the modern Arab world. The book reveals the political corruption, religious extremism and modern hopes of Egyptian people. Basically the plot of the story is focused on the Yacoubian building where al the humanity reside. This was an elegant temple of Art Deco splendour that at the present moment is slowly decaying in the smog and bustle of downtown Cairo. The author manages to depict various layers of the modern Cairo society from a fading aristocrat and self proclaimed scientist of women, to a devout young student feeling the irresistible pull toward fundamentalism. The author also successfully depicts a corrupt and corpulent politician that twists Koran to justify his desires. Being full of controversies the book still is an important window on to the experience of loss and love in the Arab world. At the same time the book will be obviously interesting of r older students who are interested in the real human feelings and emotions such as love and loss but, at the same time, are able to understand the depth of the book and fully catch the general picture of the modern society the author skilfully depicts in his book. It is important to underline that the author depicts the modern society on the background of the historical heritage of Egyptian people.
2. O.Z. Livaneli. Bliss. New York: St Martin Press, 2006.
The author focuses his attention on the life of a young Turkish girl whose problems, in actuality, may be similar to those that modern American students have but set in a different socio-cultural context. Left in the barn to hang herself for her uncle raped her, 15 year-old Meryem defies local tradition and refuses to do it. Her cousin Cemal, recently a soldier in army, who grew up with her in a tiny village in eastern Turkey, is sent to take her in Istanbul and is told to kill her on the way. On the train, Meryem eyes are open to city women who wear modern dress and speak and eat in front of men. Cemal cannot kill her, and after a short stay with his brother in Istanbul, he goes to a war buddy who gives them a place of temporary refuge, a fish farm on a cove in western Turkey. Here they meet a professor who has run away from his privileged life in Istanbul and is living on a large sailboat. He invites the two cousins to join him that gives the new direction to their life. Teens will be drawn to the plight of a girl who has been raped and is then treated as a perpetrator of the crime. The author village life and modern city life as two separate realities that coexist in Turkey today. This book will be particularly interesting for students interested in human rights and global studies.
3. Yasmina Khadra. The Attack. New York: Doubleday Publishing, 2006
In this book the author deals with an extremely important problem that is particularly serious nowadays, the problem of terrorism and its possible causes. The author has an ability to convey that sense of unrelenting anxiety that may indeed be the object of terrorism. The novel concerns the Dr Amin Jaafari, an esteemed surgeon of Arab-Bedouin descend who has worked against odds to become a relatively well-appointed citizen of Tel-Aviv. In an instant, the doctor’s life is turned inside out by a suicide bomb attack near the hospital where he practices. The very worst of it comes when he learns that his beloved wife, who perished in the attack, is believed to be one who is actually carried out the bombing. Incensed by this accusation, Amin rejects the idea that their idyllic marriage may not have been all that it seemed. His relentless search for the truth leads him back to the place from his past, and the story comes full circle. This could prove to be a book of some importance owing to its fine technique and relevance to the current world affairs. In fact, the book is really noteworthy as the work that may be viewed as a warning against terrorism that may be nearby and terrorists may be people who are nearby.
4. Hisham Matar. In the Country of Men. New York: Random House, 2006.
This novel is set in 1979. The book tells the story of Suleiman, a Lybian boy whose family and friends are targeted as anti-revolutionaries by the repressive government of Muammar Qaddafi, known to his people as the Guardian. In this waking nightmare of how the government saws fear, turning its subjects against one another, men are arrested and disappear. Some are eliminated in a horrifying public execution before a gleeful stadium crowd – an event broadcast live on television. Only nine years old, Suleiman grapples with understanding who the real traitors are, and he finds himself guilty of betraying his friends in an environment of suspicion in which the government monitors every movement and conversation. The most memorable thing in this book is the relationship between Suleiman and his young mother. Suleiman wants to save her from depression that plague her in a country hostile not only to her husband’s political beliefs but also to her gender. She still suffers the lost of her dreams after entering an arranged marriage at 15. The author portrays their relationship in intimate, realistic and heartbreaking scenes. This book will be particularly interesting for students interested in human rights. Also this book provides a perfect overview of the position of women in Middle Eastern world as well as local traditions that differ substantially from Western norms. This is why this will help better understand the norms and standards of behaviour of Middle Eastern students.
5. Orhan Pamuk. Snow. New York: Knopf Publishing Group, 2006.
The book focuses on the story of an artist who finds himself in Turkey facing a variety of challenges of the severe reality. This is the story of a Turkish poet who spent 12 years as a political exile in Germany who witnesses firsthand the clash between radical Islam and Western ideas. Ka’s reasons for visiting a small Turkish town of Kars are twofold: curiosity about the rash of suicides by young girls in the town and a hope to reconnect with the beautiful Ipek, whom he knew as a youth. But Kars is a tangle of poverty-stricken families, Kurdish separatists, political Islamists, including Ipek’s spirited sister Kadife, and Ka finds himself making compromises with all in a desperate play for his own happiness. Ka encounters government officials, idealistic students, leftist theater groups and the charismatic and perhaps terrorist blue while trying to convince Ipek to return to Germany with him. Each conversation pits warring ideologies against each other and against Ka’s own melancholy. While in Kars, the normally reticent Ka dares to approach happiness, when once he suffered a terrible writer’s block, his poems now flow effortlessly, and his new-found love seems to love him back, but the figure of Blue and the deep waters in which Ka has emerged himself threaten his promising future. The book is full of details concerning the country’s background, it takes some time to introduce all the characters. Once everyone is in place, however, the novel picks up and ultimately is a worthwhile read for those interested in religion and religious extremism studies.
6. Orhan Pamuk. My Name is Red. New York: Knopf Publishing, 2002.
This book is actually a historical novel. The author set the story in the 16th century Turkey, at the tipping point when the Ottoman Empire was being transformed from the world’s most feared superpower into an imperial backwater. The novel works on three levels. As a murder mystery, it asks who killed a gilder named Elegant, employed by atelier of miniaturists, and then Enishte, the man who was funding the atelier. On another level this is the story of ideas. In coffeehouses frequented by poets and artists, the backwash from the European Renaissance is starting to call into question fundamental principle of Islamic culture. Enishte, in particular, has become enamored of the perspectival method favored by Venetian painters, and wants his artists to achieve a comparable representation of reality, rather than abiding by traditional rules of representation. The author not only immerses readers in this debate but he makes the pictures of dogs, Satan, gold coins, etc. imitating the shadow-play method of traveling storytellers. His own ability to draw stunning pictures makes Istanbul as grimly vivid as Raskolnikov’s St Petersburg. On the third level, this is a love story. Black, a clerk and Enishte’s nephew, must win Enishte’s beautiful daughter, the widowed Shekure. In fact, the author creates the novel with colorful characters and provides a palpable sense of the atmosphere of the Ottoman Empire that history and literary fans will appreciate this book.
7. Orhan Pamuk. The Black Book. New York: Knopf Publishing Group, 2006.
The book actually represents a modern mystery setting in 1990. When Galip Cey’s wife disappears, Galip suspects she may be with her ex-husband – voluntarily or not – so he assumes a man’s identity and to investigate. This book is steeped in sense and sites of Istanbul and is in fact very specific. But imagery and detail will suffice most readers to keep reading. However, it should be said that the story of attorney Galip and his missing wife, Ruya, is allowed to drag despite an interesting intrigue that has Galip is suspicious that Ruya is hiding with her half-brother, a popular journalist. Galip assumes the identity of the half brother with unfortunate consequences. Only the stalwart will make it to the end. Obviously the book is quite complicated but at the same time it provides readers with a profound view on the complex relationship within Turkish family and the existing system of interpersonal relationships. This will naturally help students better understand the socio-cultural reality of the modern Turkey.
8. Marjane Satrapi. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. New York: Knopf Publishing Group, 2004.
The book is an autobiographical novel which is a timely and timeless story of a young girl’s life under the Islamic revolution. Descended from the last Emperor of Iran, Satrapi is nine when fundamentalist rebels overthrow the Shah. While Satrapi’s radical parents and their community initially welcome the ouster, they soon learn a new brand of totalitarianism is taking over. Satrapi’s art is minimal and stark yet often charming and humorous as it depicts the madness around her. She idolizes those who were imprisoned by the Shah, fascinated by their takes of torture, and bonds with her uncle Anoosh, only to see the new regime imprison and eventually kill him. Thank to Iran-Iraq war, neighbors homes are bombed, playmates are killed and parties are forbidden. Satrapi’s parents, who once lived in luxury despite their politics, struggle to educate their daughter. Her father briefly considers fleeing to America, only to realize the price would be too great. “I can’t become a taxi driver and you a cleaning lady?” he asks his wife. Iron Maiden, Nike, and Michael Jackson become precious symbols of freedom, and eventually Satrapi’s rebellious streak puts her in danger, as even educated women are threatened with beatings for improper attire. Despite the grimness, Satrapi never lapses into sensationalism or sentimentality. Skillfully presenting a child’s view of war and her own shifting ideals, she also shows everyday life in Tehran and her family’s pride and love for their country despite the tumultuous times. Powerfully understated, this book will be quite useful for students’ understanding of the reality of Iranian life and the consequences of religious fundamentalism leading to intolerance, violation of human rights and permanent oppression of dissidents. The book is particularly noteworthy in regard to the position of women in Iran and their rights which are obvious oppressed. It is also extremely important that the author has managed to convey the entire story from the point of view of a child facing the problems of the adult world.
9. Elif Shafak. The Bastard of Istanbul. New York: Penguin Group, 2006.
In this book the author confronts her country’s violent past in a vivid and colorful tale set in both Turkey and the United States. At its center is the bastard of the title, Asya, a nineteen year old woman who loves Johnny Cash and the French Existentialists, and the four sisters of the Kazanci family who all live together in an extended household in Istanbul: Zehilla, the zestful, headstrong youngest sister who runs a tattoo parlor and is Asya’s mother; Banu, who has newly discovered herself as a clairvoyant; Cevriye, a widowed high school teacher; and Feride, a hypochondriac obsessed with impending disaster. Their one estranged brother lives in Arizona with his wife and her Armenian daughter, Armanoush. When Armanoush secretly flies to Istanbul in search of her identity, she finds the Kazanci sisters and becomes fast friends with Asya. A secret is discovered that links the two families and ties them to the 1915 Armenian deportations and massacres. Full of vigorous, unforgettable female characters the book perfectly illustrates the complexity of life in both Turkey and the US of people originating from Turkey. The author raises the problem of ethnic intolerance and discrimination reminding about the tragedy of Armenian people and the necessity of finding national identity in the modern globalized world.
10. Ahdaf Soueif. Map of Love. New York: First Anchor Books, 2000.
This book reveals the authors ability to combine the romantic skills of the 19th century novelist with a very modern sense of culture and politics. The main characters set in either ends of the twenty century. The main characters are two women that fall in love with men outside their familiar worlds. In 1901, Anna Winterbourne, recently widowed, leaves England for Egypt, an outpost of the British Empire roiling with nationalist sentiments. Far from the comfort of the British colony, she finds herself enraptured by the real Egypt and is in love with Sharif Pasha al-Baroudi. Nearly a hundred years later, Isabel Parkman, a divorced American journalist and descendant of Anna and Sharif, has fallen in love with a gifted and difficult Egyptian-American conductor with his own passionate politics. In an attempt to understand her conflicting emotions and to discover the truth behind her heritage, Isabel, too, travels to Egypt, where she gradually unravels the story of Anna and Sharif’s love. Obviously this book is quite a romantic story which though refers to very important problems of the search of the national and cultural identity and, what is more it raises the question of co-existence of different nations to the extent that the author attempts to show how it is actually possible to develop the positive relationship between representative of different ethnic groups, which have different political and philosophical views. It is quite noteworthy that throughout this story love is dominating over the existing political contradictions in views of the main characters of the novel.

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