Electra Street is sponsoring a third “Abu Dhabi Reads” community program in conjunction with the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute. We’ll be reading The American Granddaughter (Al-Hafeeda al-Amreekiya), the second novel by Iraqi journalist and author Inaam Kachachi. Our discussion will take place in the garden of NYUAD’s Downtown Campus from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 14. The formal discussion will last just over an hour, with time for informal discussion over refreshments afterward.
The American Granddaughter dramatizes the pain of transnationalism in times of war. In the aftermath of the second U.S. invasion of Iraq and the ouster of Sadaam Hussein, Zeina Behnam returns to Iraq, fifteen years after fleeing to the U.S. with her family. Working as an interpreter for the U.S. army, she finds herself torn between allegiance to her adopted country and loyalty to the country of her birth. Zeina’s cultural background is further complicated by the fact that she is linked to two of Iraq’s minority groups, the Chaldean Christians on her father’s side and the Kurds on her mothers. Her devoutly religious and fervently nationalistic maternal grandmother, Rahma, seeks to re-educate her American Granddaughter in the ways of Iraq, but things really become complicated when Zeina falls in love with one of her “milk-brothers,” who also happens to be a member of the ultra-conservative Mahdi Army.
“If sorrow were a man I would not kill him. I would pray for his long life,” Zeina tells us on the novel’s opening page. “For it has honed me and smoothed over the edges of my reckless nature.” Zeina is an engaging narrator, who loves to make up titles for imaginary movies about episodes from her life, but the novel also includes chapters told from the third-person perspectives of several of its other characters. Careening between vivid scenes of “present” action in Baghdad ca. 2003 and memories of the past, The American Granddaughter vividly captures the disorientation and havoc wrought by war.
Written in Arabic and translated into English by Nariman Youssef, the novel was nominated for the Arabic Booker Prize. The English version is available in Kindle format from amazon.com, and copies of the English-language hardcover are available at the Magrudy’s branch on the NYU campus.For the first time at an “Abu Dhabi Reads” event, we will be offering simultaneous translation into Arabic.
If you think you might attend, please RSVP at the NYUAD Institute’s website so that we know how many refreshments to order.
We look forward to seeing you at “Abu Dhabi Reads” for an evening of lively conversation.