Join us for the next meeting of our new reading group, Books from Banned Lands, which will read contemporary literature (in English translations) from the seven Middle Eastern and North African countries targeted by the “Muslim ban” executive order of January 2017.
After reading Syrian author Rafik Schami's Damascus Nights and Iraqi author Betool Khedairi's A Sky So Close, our next stop is Libya - we'll be reading Hisham Matar's award-winning debut novel In the Country of Men. We'll continue with books from Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia, finishing the series around the one-year anniversary of the attempted ban. This reading group comes out of a desire to do something, specifically as a bookstore, to resist the dehumanization of refugees, immigrants, Arabs, Arabic-speakers, and Muslims in the United States. All readers are welcome for any and all of the meetings!
The Books from Banned Lands reading group will meet on the third Saturday of every month at 3:00 pm, on the following schedule.
Saturday, July 29: SYRIA
Damascus Nights, by Rafik Schami
Saturday, August 19: IRAQ
A Sky So Close, by Betool Khedairi
Saturday, September 23: LIBYA
In the Country of Men, by Hisham Matar
Saturday, October 21: IRAN
Sin, by Forough Farrokhzad
Saturday, November 18: SUDAN
Season of Migration to the North, by Tayeb Salih
Saturday, December 16 (earlier for the holidays): SOMALIA
Black Mamba Boy, by Nadifa Mohamed
Saturday, January 20 (One year since the Executive Order!): YEMEN
Hurma, by Ali Al-Muqri
All books will be available in advance at the Penn Book Center.
About Hisham Matar:
Hisham Matar was born in New York City. He spent his early childhood in America with his Libyan parents while his father, Jaballa Matar, was working for the Libyan delegation to the United Nations. When he was three years old, his family went back to Tripoli, Libya, where he spent the next six years of his life. Due to political persecutions by the Gaddafi regime, in 1979 his father was accused of being a reactionary to the Libyan revolutionary regime and was forced to flee the country with his family. They lived in exile in Egypt where Hisham and his brother completed their schooling in Cairo. In 1986 Matar moved to London where he continued his studies and received a degree in architecture. Also in London he completed the MA in Design Futures at Goldsmiths, University of London.In 1990, while Matar was in London, his father Jaballa, a political dissident, was kidnapped in Cairo. He has been reported missing ever since. However, in 1996, the family received two letters in his father's handwriting stating that he had been kidnapped by the Egyptian secret police, handed over to the Libyan regime, and imprisoned in the notorious Abu Salim prison in the heart of Tripoli. Since that date, there has been little information about Jaballa Matar's whereabouts. In 2010 Hisham Matar reported that he had received news that his father had been seen alive in 2002, indicating that Jaballa had survived a 1996 massacre of 1200 political prisoners by the Libyan authorities. Matar began writing his first novel, In the Country of Men, in early 2000. In the autumn of 2005, the publishers Penguin International signed him to a two-book deal. In the Country of Men was published in July 2006 and has been translated into 22 languages. In 2008 Matar became the Mary Amelia Cummins Harvey Visiting Fellow Commoner at Girton College at the University of Cambridge. He is currently a writer-in-residence for the charity First Story. Matar's second novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance, contains a character whose father is taken away by the authorities; while Matar acknowledges the relation to his own father's disappearance, he has stated that the novel is not autobiographical. In 2016, Matar published his memoir The Return.
About In the Country of Men:
In the Country of Men is the debut novel of Libyan writer Hisham Matar, first published in 2006 by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Books. It was nominated for the 2006 Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award. It has so far been translated into 22 languages and was awarded the 2007 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize as well as a host of international literary prizes. The book was also nominated for the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award in the U.S. The book follows the plight of Suleiman, a nine-year-old boy living in Tripoli in Libya, stuck between a father whose clandestine anti-Qaddafi activities bring about searches, stalkings and telephone eaves droppings by Qaddafi's state police, and a vulnerable young mother who resorts to alcohol to bury her anxiety and anger. The only people he has to turn to are his neighbor Kareem, and his father's best friend Moosa. The book provides a description of Libya under Qaddafi's terror regime, and a narration of ordinary people's lives as they try to survive the political oppression."