Books from Banned Lands: Yemen, They Die Strangers
Join us for the next - and final! - meeting of our 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.
For our sixth meeting, on SUNDAY, JANUARY 21st at 3 pm, we're reading They Die Strangers by Mohammad Abdul-Wali. Coffee and snacks will be provided!
This will be our last meeting, finishing the series with Yemen 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
Sunday, January 21 (One year since the Executive Order!): YEMEN
They Die Strangers, by Mohammad Abdul-Wali
All books will be available in advance at the Penn Book Center.
Mohammad Abdul-Wali, (1940–1973) was a Yemeni diplomat and a prominent Yemeni writer of Ethiopian descent, and one of the earliest authors in Yemen to adopt writing for artistic purposes rather than for nationalist agendas. Abdul-Wali was born in Ethiopia to an Ethiopian mother and a Yemeni father. In 1955, Abdul-Wali began his studies at the University of Cairo, where he got interested in Marxism. He was expelled from Egypt, and after a brief period in Yemen he moved to Moscow, where he learnt Russian and studied literature at the Gorky Institute.
After finishing his studies in 1962, he returned to North Yemen, which just had won its independence. He was enrolled in the young country's diplomatic corps and became chargé d'affaires first in Moscow and later in Berlin. He also had a brief spell as head of Yemen Airlines, but fell out of favour with the government and was imprisoned. He died in a never-thoroughly-investigated airplane crash on his way from Aden to Hadramaut in South Yemen along with a group of other ambassadors.
Abdul-Wali is considered one of the forerunners of the modern Yemenite literary movement.Given his Ethiopian heritage, many of his works dealt with Yemeni immigrants and exiles and the fate of Yemeni-African marriages. His novella They Die Strangers, for example, is about a Yemeni national who opens a small shop in Addis Ababa but long has a desire to return home.
They Die Strangers, translated by Abubaker Bagader and Deborah Akers and published by University of Texas Press, is a novella and thirteen short stories by this distinguished Yemeni writer, dealing with the common experiences of Yemenis like himself who are caught between cultures by the displacements of civil war or labor migration.
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