Midweek Mini Reviews #24

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two books by Palestinian American women.

The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Alyan

I loved Hala Alyan’s début novel, Salt Houses. This lead to me discovering her TEDx talk, which was a spoken word performance where she talks about the cities she’s been in and their effect on her. The talk really resonated with me, so I was excited to pick up her poetry collection, especially when I learnt it was titled The Twenty-Ninth Year. Being close to but not yet 29, I was hoping to find more pieces that truly spoke to me. Unfortunately, The Twenty-Ninth Year ended up not being my cup of tea. It was darker and rawer than I’d expected, touching a lot more on topics like assault, substance abuse and loss rather than just about a young woman coming of age. There were, however, some poems that stood out to me such as “Honeymoon”, “Gospel: Newlyweds” and ‘Step Eight: Make Amends” because they showed a more realistic take on a young marriage. Honest and candid, The Twenty-Ninth Year may not be a collection of poetry for everyone, but if it is for you, then it will make you feel like you are not alone.

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum 

In Etaf Rum’s A Woman is No Man, a woman named Isra and her daughter, Deya are the central focus of the book, however we also get to know Fareeda who is Isra’s mother-in-law. Isra’s story is particularly tragic because of the foregone conclusion that she and her husband both die when Deya and her sisters are still young since the girls are being raised by their grandparents in the present day. What’s even sadder is that not much has changed for women, as Deya is also pressured to get married after graduating high school despite it being 2008 and her wanting to attend college instead. I really liked Deya’s story, especially how it was connected to the other women in her family and it was thrilling to watch her slowly discover the truth about her mother. I also found it refreshing how none of the characters were multi-dimensional and that no one was truly an evil person. For example, by getting Fareeda’s back story we see that everyone, not just Deya and Isra have their own traumas, struggles and weaknesses. I also appreciated how it was shown that no one in their cloistered community was truly “free”, even the men have expectations and pressures thrust upon them. A powerful and well written novel, the book is made more significant once you learn that the authour drew inspiration from her own experience. And while I could have done without the epilogue, I am satisfied with the book’s hopeful ending as it was about time things started to change and move into a more positive manner for these women.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above reviews consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Authour:
Hala Alyan
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
May 2nd 2017
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Last year, I read a couple of books by Israeli authours so this year I thought I should try getting a different perspective by reading a book written by a Palestinian writer. Fortunately, I stumbled upon Hala Alyan’s Salt Houses through an excerpt included in Publishers Lunch’s Buzz Books 2017: Spring/Summer.

Salt Houses is a story about the Palestinian diaspora, and rather than focusing on the war and violence in the Middle East, the novel instead chooses to tell the story of a Palestinian family over several generations. What results it’s a glimpse of the various family members, and how they are separated as a result of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict in addition to how each member survives in their own unique way. Unfortunately because of the way the story is told, we do not get a full glimpse into the majority of the characters and their development. Still, enough detail and information have provided over the various years that one can easily piece together the significant events.

Hala Alyan who is also a performer in addition to being a clinical psychologist and a writer brings many of her talents to her début novel, making Salt Houses an enchantingly beautiful and poetic novel that takes its readers on a difficult but unforgettable journey. Even now as I write this review days after I’ve finished the novel, the character of Alia and the haunting imagery of the last scene in Salt Houses still remains clear in my mind. Highly recommended if you love reading culturally, rich and diverse family sagas.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.