With her Muslim hijab and down-turned
gaze, Najwa is invisible to most eyes, especially to the rich families whose houses she cleans in London. Twenty years ago, Najwa, then at university in
Khartoum, would never have imagined that one day she would be a maid. An upper-class
Westernized Sudanese, her dreams were to marry well and raise a family. But a
coup forces the young woman and her family into political exile in London. Soon orphaned, and with her twin brother sent to jail on a drug charge, she
finds solace and companionship within the Muslim community. Then Najwa meets
Tamer, the intense, lonely younger brother of her employer. They find a common
bond in faith and slowly, silently, begin to fall in love. Written with
directness and force, Minaret is a lyric and insightful novel about Islam and an
alluring glimpse into a culture Westerners are only just beginning to
Leila Aboulela on autobiographical elements in Minaret:
In both my parents' lives, modernity and tradition existed side by sidein my father's case his liberal education and his loyalty to his family, in my mother's case her devotion to Islam and her career in the UN. This interplay between modernity and tradition would also become my own challenge and a feature of my life and writing. In my case it is my desire to live in Britain and become part of the UK literary scene while at the same time practicing my faith and reflecting it in my writing. My parents' successful lives have given me a confidence and an optimism that, although it is neither easy nor comfortable, modernity and tradition can coexist.
Omar, are you awake?' I shook his arm
that lay across
his face, covering his eyes.
'Get up.' His room was wonderfully cool because he had the best air conditioner in the house.
'I can't move.' He put his arm down and blinked at me. I moved my head back, wrinkling my nose at his bad breath.
'If you don't get up, I'm going to take the car.'
'Seriously, I can't . . . can't move.'
'Well, I'm going without you.' I walked to the far end of his room, past his cupboard and the poster of Michael Jackson. I switched the air conditioner off. It died down with an echo and heat surrounded the room, waiting to pounce into it.
'Why are doing this to me?'
I laughed and said with glee, 'Now you'll be forced to get up.'
Downstairs I drank tea with Baba. He always looked so nice in the morning, fresh from his shower and ...
If you liked Minaret, try these:
This gorgeous first novel is the deeply moving story of one woman, Nazneen, born in a Bangladeshi village and transported to London at age eighteen to enter into an arranged marriage.
Doria, 15, is growing up in the rough Paris immigrant public housing projects. She sets her dreams against the grim daily struggle of her life: "It's like a film script. . . . trouble is, our scriptwriter's got no talent. And he's never heard of happily ever after."
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