Monday, July 23, 2012

Compelling Reads: Zoe Ferraris

I don't do a lot of book recommendations here. There are others who do it better, and we don't need yet another book blogger!

But an SLJ post rather serendipitously coincided with my own Amazon purchase a mere 10 minutes earlier.  It was destiny. And made me realize I should blog her, given my own rant several years ago about how Arabs and Islam are portrayed in literature.

So here we go.  If you haven't read Zoe Ferraris Finding Nouf, you are in for a treat.  A literary mystery (as opposed to a who-dunnit) set in Saudi Arabia,  Nouf combines its mystery thriller plotline with a nuanced look at the struggles between conservative Islam and the modern world, through its Bedouin "detective" and his interactions with a female lab worker in the coroner's office who has her own struggles with tradition, as one of the few women to bare her face and work in public.

An American who lived in Saudi for only nine months, Zerraris' depictions of the Muslim world moves well beyond Muslim Brotherhood paranoia, to reveal characters every bit as real and conflicted as their Western counterparts.  Zerraris doesn't ignore the issues around women's rights and the more repressive Islamic strictures, but she moves beyond the stereotype to present us with determined, assertive women who work within their culture while they also confront it.

They're also just a darned good read, and a good recommendation for students looking for something a bit more thought provoking.

As I said, I just bought the two sequels to Finding Nouf--I need an airplane read for that long, long flight to Beijing next week--but I doubt I can wait that long. Everything I've read says they're even better than the first. 

Update: BTW, the last two images are in reverse order, but Blogger keeps deleting them every time I try to change them.

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