Category Archives: Moroccan

Mirror by Jeannie Baker

The simplicity of Australian author/artist Jeannie Baker‘s latest title makes it simply stupendous. Open the book and you have two halves on either side, the left which begins in English, and right which starts with Arabic. To tell you too much would be wasteful of the gasp of delight that you will certainly have on your own discovery … so stop reading here or endure just a few details …

Two families – one in Sydney, Australia, the other in southern Morocco’s Valley of Roses (“famous for its rose perfume,” Baker adds in the final author’s note) – experience what seem to be very different lives, thousands of miles apart.

Turn the pages together on either side, and through exquisite, multi-layered collage, Baker creates a wordless journey of two families going about their busy day. “But some things connect them,” Baker writes on the first page, “just as some things are the same for all families no matter where they live.” Indeed each facing set of pages provide hide-and-seek details that actually connect us all together … no spoilers here … you’ll need to cuddle up with a young ‘un to find a few for yourselves!

“The idea for this book came from my delight traveling in a country very different from my own,” explains Baker at book’s end. “At the time, in my own country, there was much political poisoning of attitudes toward foreigners and foreignness.” Traveling as a “stranger” herself, what Baker realized was not so much that outward differences mattered, but “[i]nwardly we are so alike, it could be each other we see when we look in a mirror.”

Her resulting book could not be a better reminder of the same, shared goals of people everywhere: to be loved by family and friends, to be a part of a community, to belong. Regardless of specific circumstances, our connections define and make us human. While celebrating the unique cultures and traditions that give us our diverse heritages, Baker reminds us with clear, undeniable proof that we are all an interconnected community.

Go get a copy right now. Share it with your children, your immigrant neighbors, yourself. Language not required. Just a few moments of your humanity …

Readers: All

Published: 2010

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Filed under ...Absolute Favorites, ..Adult Readers, ..Children/Picture Books, ..Middle Grade Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Bilingual, .Fiction, Australian, Moroccan

Leaving Tangier by Tahar Ben Jelloun, translated by Linda Coverdale

Leaving TangierIn spite of his prestigious college degree which should have guaranteed him a bright future, Azel is unable to find meaningful work in his native Tangier, a city in northern Morocco. Mired in self-absorbed disappointment, he spends his days and nights lost in women, wine, and song, living off the hard earnings of his older sister, Kenza. When he meets Miguel, a wealthy Spaniard, Azel recognizes a chance for escape. Although he adamantly denies being a homosexual, Azel nevertheless allows Miguel to buy him a luxurious new life in Barcelona.

Azel’s sister Kenza soon follows as Miguel’s legal “wife,” but insists on remaining independent. Unable to come to terms with his exploited sexuality – not to mention his dissolute existence – Azel falls victim to his own sense of trapped failure.

Already a bestseller in France where it was first published (Jelloun is a Moroccan transplant who immigrated to France in 1961), Leaving adroitly explores the complicated issues of immigration, contrasting two cultures separated merely by the few miles of the Straits of Gibraltar, and yet so vastly distanced by socio-economic differences.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2009 (United States)

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Translation, Arab, European, Moroccan

Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi

stolen-livesNever mind its faults. Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail, by Malika Oufkir and Michele Fitoussi is going to sell well. It’s already a runaway bestseller in France, where it debuted in 1999 as La Prisoniere.

As far as memoirs go, this one is sensational – literally. It’s got fairy-tale royal life. It’s got a political coup. It’s got deprivation and suffering during a decades-long prison sentence. It’s even got film written all over it (Talk Miramax is the publisher, after all).

The book opens with a preface by co-author Fitoussi who waxes about seeing this mysterious, beautiful woman from afar at a Paris party. They become friends, Oufkir needs to get her story out to “exorcise the painful past” so Fitoussi drops everything to transcribe it for her. Thus, Stolen Lives begins.

Malika Oufkir, whose first name means “queen” in Arabic, was presciently (and later, ironically) named. As the first child of a powerful and affluent family, she was indeed the “little queen” in the eyes of her father, General Muhammad Oufkir. …[click here for more]

Review: Christian Science Monitor, April 19, 2001

Readers: Adult

Published: 2001 (United States)

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Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Memoir, .Nonfiction, Moroccan

Chingis Khan by Demi

Chingis KhanA biography, based on both historical accounts and legends, of the great Mongol warrior and leader, Chingis Khan (aka Ghenghis Khan), who at the height of his career, controlled the largest empire ever created during the lifetime of one man.

The prolific Demi is the author/illustrator of over a hundred books for children. Her full name, for the curious, is Charlotte Demi Hunt Huang. She comes for a long line of fine artists … and she’s Chinese American by marriage to Tze-si Jesse Huang.

Review: “Asian American Titles,” What Do I Read Next? Multicultural Literature, Gale Research, 1997

Readers: Children

Published: 1991

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Filed under ..Children/Picture Books, .Biography, .Nonfiction, Chinese, Moroccan