Moments like these make me grateful for all the unexpected friendships and connections I have made over the past year or so since I started writing my blog. I am as unfamiliar as one can be when it comes to Arab literature. Struggling as I was to find a suitable book for the next prompt in the Reading Women Challenge, along came a book buddy who not only recommended some really interesting books but also offered to buddy read this one with me.
And so it was ‘Men Don’t Cry’ by Faiza Guene for the prompt A Book by an Arab Author in Translation.
What I loved
In this delightful and heart- warming story, Faiza Guene takes a look at the immigrant experience through the eyes of Mourad and his family. The title itself is telling of the tone of the book – Men Don’t Cry, they’re supposed to be strong and face it all.
However, we have Mourad – a homebody, an English teacher with debilitating anxiety and a loner by his own admission.
Narrated mostly from his perspective, Guene takes a look at the multicultural experience of those kids who’re born to immigrant parents and forever straddle two worlds, not quite belonging to either.
What didn’t work for me
This book gets a lot of love on Goodreads and I really did not wish to highlight its drawbacks, as I don’t mean to undermine the narrative in any manner. However, it does need pointing out that the author, while doing complete justice to one group of people, does not extend the same empathy to another and indulges in stereotyping which really does not work for me in any book.
There’s the insecure blonde older woman who dates someone much younger, later also opting for plastic surgery in an attempt to be more desirable. Indians do their head bobble (I thought we were past the point where the Indian head bobble was funny?) Mourad is very endearing, but at times his views seem a bit misogynist which made uncomfortable reading.
At a little over 200 pages, this was overall a breezy read. Although written in a humorous tone, it made me pause and draw parallels with my own experiences of living as an expat. Most importantly though, it made me keen to consciously seek out more translated literature.
A little extra
In Men Don’t Cry, Guene makes a lot of references to the Arab culture, especially their food and music. What was especially new for me was discovering Rai music. I have included below a couple of links which helped me get a better insight into Rai and its significance.
This article which gives a solid introduction to Rai Music
This article by Culture Trip that includes some popular music videos along with an overview of Rai
Reading Women Challenge – Prompts Completed 10/24
- A book with a rural setting
- A book with a cover designed by a woman
- A fantasy novel by an Asian author
- A book by a neurodivergent author
- Reread a favourite
- Protagonist older than 50
- Young Adult Novel by a Latinx author
- A book longlisted for the JCB prize
- A non-fiction book about social justice
- A book by an Arab author in translation
Cover image courtesy: amazon.co.uk
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