Sarab by Raja Alem (tr. Leri Price)

a nutshell: this sweeping novel follows a woman whose familial devotion leads her to participate in the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, ultimately transporting her far from the Saudi desert where she grew up

a line: “Is it a duty in life to kill those who aren’t an exact copy of ourselves?”

an image: at one moment, a character opens the door to an apartment immersed in darkness where he could’ve cut the curtains of depression with a knife (PTSD is an ongoing theme)

a thought: I was intrigued by Alem’s tacit condemnation of gender stereotypes – how she portrays & subverts expectations of how a man or a woman should behave, e.g. probing a protagonist’s initial shock at a man in tears or traditional disgust at women’s menstruation – the latter is an issue that recurs throughout the novel

a fact: I began the book with virtually zero knowledge of this event in 1979 and learned more about it here; interestingly it seems the House of Saud’s response was essentially: ‘the solution to the religious upheaval was simple: more religion’

want to read Sarab? visit here

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