Tag Archives: arabic

2010 TBR Challenge

Avid Reader’s TBR Challenge is good for me and my TBR.  It is slowly (very slowly) winnowing down the TBR mountain.  Sometimes I wonder why some of the occupants are on the shelves, though, since so many of the books I select for the challenge wind up unfinished.

This month’s book: Fashionably Late by Nadine Adjani

(c) 2007 by Forge/Tom Doherty Associates

Convinced you’re having a quarter life crisis? Think maybe a soul-searching trip might help?

Aline Hallaby, a nice, obedient Arab girl, has it all – a budding career at one of Montreal’s most prestigious accounting firms, a loving family, and a boyfriend of three years who has finally proposed. To top it all off, she’s about to fly to Cancun with her accounting classmates to celebrate passing the Uniform Final Examination. There’s just one tiny problem: Ali has failed the exam. She hasn’t told a soul. Not her parents. Not her boyfriend. And definitely not her boss, who will boot Ali out the door as soon as she finds out.

So rather than suffer through seven days in Cancun with her drunken-yet-successful classmates, Ali grabs her best friends, Sophie and Yasmin, and flees to the farthest place her airfare cancellation insurance will carry her: the resort town of Varadero Beach, Cuba . . .

The sea, sand, and sun, not to mention the attention of a certain Cuban dive instructor, soon have Ali feeling wonderfully careless and increasingly reckless. Caught up in a whirlwind of rum-soaked nights and moonlit Havana strolls, this good Muslim girl gets her very first taste of what it would be like fo be bad, really bad. But will what happens in Cuba stay in Cuba? Or is Ali finally ready to break out of the good-girl mold and grow into the woman she’s meant to be?

I don’t know the answer to those questions, since I grew bored and irritated by Ali by the time she arrived in Cuba.

Why this book? I think I read a recommendation somewhere in blogland. And it seemed like a slightly different chick lit offering: heroine of Lebanese descent, set in Montreal and Cuba. But in the end, not so much. Ali just came across as spoiled, self-absorbed, and not very sympathetic.

I felt sorry for her exam failure, remembering how certain I was that I’d failed the bar when my results arrived on Saturday rather than Friday like all my friends. But impatient with her otherwise, and rather disgusted by her treatment of her boyfriend (whose sole offense seemed to be proposing during her meltdown) and her parents (who wanted her to be successful and to marry well – fairly average parental dreams). Mostly, as I read I wanted to tell her to grow up and behave like an adult. My expectation of chick lit heroines is that they behave like adults, even when making bad choices and then fixing them. Ali never seemed to get past adolescent. Of course, that may have happened after I abandoned the book.

Anything else? Am curious about how "good Muslim girl" is defined, because Ali did not seem particularly defined by her faith or culture. She drank, she dated a Catholic boy, she never went to mosque, etc. She seemed Arabic and Muslim in name only.

Keep or pass on? Pass on.

Read this author again? I’d try her again but won’t buy unless I *love* it.

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Language as culture

Check out this article in The Economist on language as part of culture. I found the example of kitaab vs. sefer (book in Arabic and Hebrew) fascinating, especially with respect to the author’s speculation on the divergence of the nouns, given the closeness of the verb “to write” in the two languages (katab/katav).

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Girls of Riyadh

Drive by review…

Title: Girls of Riyadh

Author: Rajaa Alsanea

Copyright: 2007 for the English translation and publication; originally published in Arabic in 2005

Why did I pick it up? I read a review in The Economist (part admiring, part dismissive) and decided to pick up a copy.

Did I like the cover? No, the cover art/design would’ve put me off picking up a copy if I hadn’t read a review already – I thought it was a bit tacky.

Summary: Through the medium of a yahoo group, an anonymous Saudi woman of the upper “velvet” class narrates the lives and searches for love of four “fictional” young women. Her intros include snips of information about the feedback that she gets from readers and about her preferences in lipstick, etc. The cast of characters includes: Michelle, a Saudi-American who doesn’t quite fit in; Gamrah, who marries first but not happily; Lamees, the medical student who bounces around trying to figure out what she wants; and Sadeem, who is rejected by one suitor and strung along by another.

What did I think?   If the glimpse into the in-some-ways very sequestered lives of wealthy Saudi women is accurate, I can see why the book caused a stir when it was published in Saudi Arabia. Having said that, most of the contents were pretty average chick lit; the only difference was the culture in which it was set.

Perhaps it is simply my western outlook, but I had a very hard time feeling sympathetic to Gamrah, who seemed to make little effort to earn or work toward her own happiness. She was utterly dependent on her family and her husband, and although she wasn’t happy, she didn’t make any effort to change that. She didn’t deserve the poor treatment she received, but she also never really stood up for herself. The other three were more sympathetic, in that they weren’t just going through the motions while waiting for an arranged marriage that would bring them their Princes Charming.

GoR is not a romance, it is chick lit, so I didn’t expect HEA for everyone…but it felt unfinished to me. Not because I needed to know if Michelle ever figured herself out or if Ganmah ever remarried, but because it seemed to stop in an awkward place.

I liked the narrative style, with interruptions and asides from the narrator in the form of email. The language itself didn’t strike me as either particularly lyrical or especially clunky; I’m not sure what that says about the translator, though. I wish my Arabic was good enough to read an adult book so I could compare the two (I’m only able to stumble through kids’ books, elementary ones at that).

New to me author?   Yes. I think this may have been her debut, also.

Keeper? Nope, it was a library book.

Anything else to say?  I was trying to figure out how to do a dueling review of Girls of Riyadh and The Saffron Kitchen, because they both said something about women in the Middle East and their positions in Islamic societies, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it right. And frankly, after I thought about it, I decided that it would be like comparing Sex in the City to a Barbara Samuels WF book ; the fact that the two books include underlying themes about the social position of women doesn’t mean that the books themselves have anything else in common.  Apples and oranges. 

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Looking on the bright side

The Orioles seem to be most comfortable when about 10 games under .500…which drives me crazy. Forget firing the manager, half the team needs to be fired. But. But! Watching from left field as the Yankees lost on Tuesday night (the O’s didn’t actively win, they just happened to be on the field while NY lost) was still a pleasure. Go, Jeremy Guthrie! Even better would’ve been to watch Bedard and Clemens pitch last night. But no, I was sitting in class. *sigh* Still, a win is a win 🙂

What have I been reading? Well, not much. Continue reading

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Coming soon to a theater near me

On the movie front, I saw a trailer for No Reservations, a movie about a chef whose very orderly, controlled life is thrown into chaos when her sister dies and she must take care of her niece. It looks very slick and pretty, but I’m pretty sure that the original German version, Mostly Martha is better. Why, oh why must Hollywood take something that worked and Americanize it?

And The Bourne Ultimatum? The series has already veered so far away from Ludlum’s books that I’m surprised they can still use the name. Despite that, I loved the first movie and liked the second, so I’ll go see this one.

Transformers – The Computer Guy and I have plans to see this one on debut night. Transformers, more than meets the eye…

Plus I’m really looking forward to the pirate movie out this week and the HP movie out in July.

Unrelated, I attended a seminar on the art of Arabic calligraphy over the weekend. Very interesting. Check out the designs here and here. I like the Diwani style of calligraphy and the zoomorphic examples. I would post a copy of my favorite here, but that would be a copyright violation, I think, so instead, go check out the first link and check out Sakkal’s prints, espeically Gallery Two and Three.


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A happy post

I feel like I’ve been pissy and grouchy when posting lately, so here’s a happy post: I’ve started Kelley Armstrong’s No Humans Involved.  Love it so far.  Of course, I’m a sucker for Jeremy Danvers, so I’m happy to read anything with him as a character.

More happy news:  I’m pretty sure I passed my midterm.  Of course, it was open book, so it would’ve been hard to fail.  But I think I’ve got the numbers and the counting rules under control too!  Gender, number, case, animate vs. inanimate.  The numbers will not defeat me!

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