The Arabic Literature Discussion Group Image for Arabic Lit Flyer meets from 6 p.m. to 7:50 p.m. on the first Monday of most months. Discussions are held in the Flatirons Meeting Room on the 2nd floor of the Main Library, 11th & Arapahoe in downtown Boulder unless otherwise noted. For more information, please contact Bill at bill4gb AT gmail DOT com, or 3.449.4136.

January 8, 2018 The Return a memoir by Hisham Matar, Libya.
When Hisham Matar was a nineteen-year-old university student in England, his father went missing under mysterious circumstances. Hisham would never see him again, but he never gave up hope that his father might still be alive. 22 years later, he returned to his native Libya in search of the truth behind his father's disappearance. The Return, the story of what he found there, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.

February 5, 2018 Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring by Bassem Youssef, Egypt.
Youssef recounts his life and offers hysterical riffs on the hypocrisy, instability, and corruption that has long animated Egyptian politics. From the attempted cover-up of the violent clashes in Tahrir Square to the government's announcement that it had created the world's first “AIDS cure” machine, to the conviction of officials that Youssef was a CIA operative recruited by Jon Stewart to bring down the country through sarcasm. Interweaving the dramatic and inspiring stories of the development of his popular television show and his rise as the most contentious funny-man in Egypt, Youssef's takes on dictatorship, revolution, and the unforeseeable destiny of democracy in the Modern Middle East offers much needed hope and more than a few healing laughs.

March 5, 2018 Mirrors by Naghib Mahfouz (illustrated by Seif Wanli), Egypt.
Mirrors is one of Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz's more unusual works. It consists of a series of vignettes of characters from a writer's life - a writer very like Mahfouz himself. And accompanying each vignette is a portrait of the character by a friend of the author, the renowned Alexandrian artist Seif Wanli. Mirrors also reflects the recent history of Egypt, its political movements, its leaders, its wars, and its peace, all of which affect the lives of friends and enemies and of the narrator himself.

April 2, and May 7, 2018: In the Shadow of the Prophet: The Struggle for the Soul of Islam by Milton Viorst.
Journalist Viorst illuminates the complex struggle to reconcile the Muslim community's fierce determination to live by traditional Islamic law and beliefs with the desire for economic and political power in today's world. Conservative and fundamentalist sects are violently at odds with those Muslims who feel Islam must find a way to integrate science and democracy into Islamic life. Considering Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and others, Viorst asks if Islam is responsible for the economic and social stagnation of the Arab world.

June 4, 2018 Watch and then discuss the film “Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt
Umm Kulthum, the “voice of Egypt,” was the most celebrated musical performer of the twentieth century in the Arab world. More than twenty years after her death in 1975, her devoted audience, drawn from all strata of Arab society, still numbered in the millions. Ultimately, she created her own unique idiom and developed original song styles from both populist and neo-classical inspirations. These were enthusiastically received, heralded as crowning examples of a new, yet authentically Arab-Egyptian, culture.

July 2, 2018 Alexandra Chreiteh, Ali and His Russian Mother
Two Lebanese youngsters renew their friendship on a bus to Moscow while fleeing the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. Carrying Russian passports like their mothers - both of whom married Lebanese men and settled there - they are forced to reflect upon their choices, and lack of them, in a country that is yet again being torn apart by violent conflict.

August 6, 2018 Sophia al-Maria The Girl Who Fell to Earth: A Memoir
A coming-of-age memoir about growing up in between American and Gulf Arab cultures. Sophia's mother was raised on a farm in America and her father was a Bedouin with a second family in Qatar. Her journey includes finding young love in the Arabian Gulf, rebellion in Cairo, and finally, self-discovery in the mountains of Sinai.

September 10, 2018 Rabih Alameddine, An Unnecessary Woman
A meditation on, among other things, aging, politics, literature, loneliness, grief, and resilience. Aaliya, in her seventies, tries to overcome her aging body emotional upwellings prompted by her memories of the Civil War in Lebanon and her volatile past. Alameddine's The Hakawati was discussed with high praise in the Arabic Literature Group in 2009.
(Note: This meeting is in Alfalfa's Community Room and is the second Monday in September)

October 1, 2018 Rania Abouzeid, No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria
Based on more than five years of clandestine reporting on the front lines, No Turning Back is an utterly engrossing human drama full of vivid, indelible characters that shows how hope can flourish even amid one of the twenty-first century's greatest humanitarian disasters. Extending back to the first demonstrations of 2011, No Turning Back dissects the tangle of ideologies and allegiances that make up the Syrian conflict.

November 5, 2018 Hanan al-Shaykh, I Sweep the Sun Off Rooftops
In a collection of 17 exquisitely calibrated stories, this noted Lebanese writer (Beirut Blues, 1995, etc.) explores the lives of Arabs living on the cusp of modernity. With few exceptions, the people al-Shaykh writes about are urban residents, middle class, and comparatively well educated. They live in Africa, Morocco, London, or Beirut and are just as likely to be Christian as Moslem. Stories, in all, that glow with empathy and intelligence.

Book summaries are taken from publisher and distributor websites. They are meant to briefly summarize a book to allow readers to select what might interest them most. If you cannot find a book you want at your library, see for steps to follow to make an interlibrary loan request.

This is, last updated on 09/10/18. Link to for a list of all books discussed by the group.