Egyptian author al Aswany (The Yacoubian Building) weaves a vivid tapestry of clashing cultures in post-9/11 Chicago. Dr. Ra'fat Thabit, an Egyptian-American professor at the University of Illinois Medical School, has burrowed deep into American culture, but finds his identity threatened after his rebellious daughter falls under the sway of a shady boyfriend. Ra'fat's colleague, Dr. Muhammad Shamay, retreats from his American wife into extended reveries of his life in Cairo in the 1970s when he was young and in love with a revolutionary. His histology student, Nagi Abd al-Samad, really wants to be a poet. Nagi begins a relationship with an American girl named Wendy (who just so happens to be Jewish). Meanwhile, Shymaa Muhammadi, a medical student who wears a veil, finds her traditional values under siege when Tariq Haseeb, another Egyptian med student, begins seducing her with dogged persistence. The characters are beautifully realized—Ra'fat's family trouble is especially well done—and though their cumulative effect is muted, each of the story lines is individually compelling. (Oct.)
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“Egyptian author Al Aswany weaves a vivid tapestry of clashing cultures in post 9/11 Chicago. . . . The characters are beautifully realized [and] each of the story lines is individually compelling.” (Publishers Weekly)
“...Al Aswany’s knack for making the personal political.” (New York magazine)
“While the book explores political points, it’s ultimately a pluralist drama, complete with cliffhangers.” (Washington Post Express)
“Aswany sensitively probes the nature of courage and patriotism. . . . [T]he story moves in surprising directions, and the ambiguity of life is well reflected in an unabashedly untidy conclusion. (The New Yorker)
“Al Aswany writes about his Egyptian characters with charm, gentle humor, and genuine conviction.” (New York Times Book Review)