Review: Whitefly

Whitefly: A Novel

By Abdelilah Hamdouchi; translated by Jonathan Smolin

The American University in Cairo Press

144 pp.

Reviewed by AA Bastian

December 3, 2016

Detective Laafrit is trying to quit. Will sucking lozenges keep him from smoking while he searches for the murderer of four Moroccans washed ashore near Tangier’s coastline? The case takes on international proportions as ties between the murdered men and intrigues in Spain emerge.

Whitefly opens with youth protesting illegally for jobs, a parallel to Laafrit’s activist youth. He must defuse the situation to save the students from the retribution of the Moroccan police force, famed for torturing their captured….

Read the full review here.

 

Excerpt from Unsigned: “The Letters”

…On a day towards the end of the year in Bangkok in 1854 of Thailand or what was then called Siam, the heat hadn’t drawn a sweat as the weather finally turned just a bit cooler. Tropical draping greens and crawling vines dressed the homes along canals that formed the thoroughfares of the city. Everyone either owned their own long slender wooden boat with paddles or rented them.

Most houses along the canals stood on stilts at least a foot or two above the ground. Red-brown, solid, teak-wood formed the walls and framed the open windows shaded with slanted over-hangs. Semi-circle, rounded clay tiles mounded up the pointing rooves, sharply angling from below like an arrow’s point. The homes looked somewhat like houses in Connecticut, but pinched in sharper skyward angles. The rooves often ended their A-line, at the ends, with a wooden or gilded flare.

His Excellency, the Phraya Si Suriyawongse, Commander of the Royal Palace Navy, the most preferred of the King’s, second only to his father, the Chancellor of Defense, called all the Protestant evangelists in Siam to his home. They arrived from the canal by water taxis just as they came in the past. The minister knew the missionaries well. This time the minister’s greeting, however, was icy.

The missionaries congregated in a room of the minister’s house unsure of the tenor of the invite. The minister looked them over carefully clutching a sheet of newsprint in his hands. He handed it to each one of them to look at page five where an editorial note and then two unsigned letters appeared. The Singapore Straits Times had been recently published on 12 September 1854. As each missionary perused the editorial and then the two letters, they were dumbfounded.

The editorial note began, “Siam. –By late advices we regret to learn that matters are not progressing favourably in the country of Siam, in consequence of the policy and conduct pursued by the reigning sovereign….”

None of the missionaries present held any real malice toward the king, nor had they discussed amongst themselves any disdain for him. They looked at each other wondering which one of their fellows had acted duplicitously and who could they now trust.

After they had each seen the editorial note and the letters the minister faced each missionary individually to probe, “Did you write that letter?”.

One of those missionaries present that day, Samuel Smith, remembered the night eighteen years later, “An anonymous communication appeared in the Straits Times, Tuesday, Sept. 12th, 1854.

That letter animadverted severely upon [King Mongkut]. Whether it was a freak of a playful or malicious man or whether it was the move of a would be deep politician does not at present concern us. True or false, as was natural, it gave great offense to a sensitive king, who despite his peculiarities and praiseworthy intellectuality longed to be esteemed by foreigners abroad as one of the best men that ever drew the breath of life….”

To the minister’s question, each missionary denied having anything to connection to the letter. One of them had to be responsible. The letters contained information that only people close to the king would know. The Phraya pressed further, if they hadn’t written it, who did?…

Review: A Rare Blue Bird Flies with Me

Feel through the darkness with Aziz, who is being held in detention; bits of cloth, a nail, a spattering of blood, a bone. He lies imprisoned in a kitchen awaiting his own death amidst the rot of others who have passed before him….

Check out my latest book review at the Washington Independent Review of Books 11/11/16:

http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/bookreview/a-rare-blue-bird-flies-with-me-a-novel

City of Writes

A literary friend bans the mere mention of career and the two-fingered clasp of that must-carry calling card. A self-proclaimed “New Yorker in exile,” she hosted a dinner party for artists in Washington, DC. She abhors the city’s drabness and its dark-suit-wearing crowd of lawyers who represent a place in which she’s endured far too many so-what-do-you-do’s?

She’s not the only disgruntled literary New Yorker I’ve met in DC, but I can’t relate….

 

Here is my new feature published in the Washington Independent Review of Books published on 2 Oct 2016 with a personal profile of the writing community of Washington, DC, and my own work on the Thai-Mormon narrative history I am writing.

 

http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/features/city-of-writes

Review: The Televangelist

Ibrahim Essa’s new novel, The Televangelist, is a powerful commentary on Islam in modern Egypt with deep insight for Westerners. Nothing is what it seems. The last few pages of the book will surprise you so much you’ll want to read them again to see how it all plays out.

Sheik Hatem is a televangelist for a popular call-in show based in Cairo. When he is tasked with turning a high-profile leader’s son back from his conversion to Christianity, he finds himself in the middle of a high-stakes mission that risks his position with the state in its tight control over religious media. Due to his prestige and willingness to engage his fans in an approachable way, he becomes the reader’s intermediary in a complex Islamic context…

 

Here is my review of The Televangelist published at the Washington Independent Review of Books on 27 September 2016:

http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/bookreview/the-televangelist-a-novel

Review: The Castaway’s War

Check out my most recent review at the Washington Independent Review of Bookshttp://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/bookreview/the-castaways-war-one-mans-battle-against-imperial-japanscreen-shot-2016-09-08-at-11-37-11-am

Top 3 Posts Published in May 2016

My article made the top three posts polished in May 2016 at Washington Independent Review of Books!

Check out the announcement!

5 Most Popular Posts: May 2016

Meet the Press: May 2016

Hoopoe Specializes in Stories from the Middle East and North Africa.

Published in the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Excerpt:

Discover the Arab world’s most dynamic novels now available in English thanks to Hoopoe — from the American University in Cairo (AUC) Press — a new imprint spotlighting Arab novels, the kind that already top the stacks on nightstands across the Middle East.

Click here for the article.

Mormon is Global, 2nd Edition

My copies finally arrived in the mail today!

_2 - 1 (1)

 

What’s new?

  • Refined nearly every page.
  • An East to West discussion.
  • Immigration/Converts
  • Clarification of some chapters/ideas.

“The problem with associating Mormonism and Americanism is that people expect Mormons to behave like Americans.” p.8

“The spark lit in the first edition began burning for a second. Thanks to colleagues, friends and family for feedback that nuances and enlivens this new edition. I still do not consider this a definitive volume but an evolving process to disguss an intricate global network of Mormons while acknowledging challenges and obstacles….” p.6

“Karthik Thandavamurthy wouldn’t mind signing an autograph, especially for a couple of twinkle under lovely loppy lashes. Karthik is Mormon. He’s Indian from Bangalaru. He’s Deaf. He also loves working with Mormon missionaries to translate for other deaf Indians interested in learning more about the Mormons.

This is what it looks like….” p.31

“My roommate in Jerusalem was a convert. Four of us roomed together in Brigham Young University’s Jerusalem campus set on a lovely hill overlooking the Old City on the West Bank. She was the first convert with whom I had close interaction. I was eighteen and impressionable. She took it as her mission to open my eyes to the outside world. Mormons, she felt, were too sheltered.” p.44

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Boots in the Temple: A Collection

Boots in the Temple: A Collection

Boots in the Temple

Mormon missionary Levi Savage did not succeed in Burma, and that was better in 1853. In late September in the outer recesses of the pointed gold-laced Shwedagon pagoda on a hilltop in Yangon, wide forehead, warm-eyed Savage jotted a few lines about his struggles. Cicadas vibrated their pitchy songs in the trees. Soft fluting and caws came from colorful flapping feathers beyond its walls. Cockroaches peaked out from within the floor’s crevices. Moist heavy air and drip from rains moistened his pen and journal. He bumbled through the language he tried to learn. His traveling companion since Utah, Elam Luddington, soured towards him. Even in dreams he saw falling trees blocking his way. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Lost Guides: Burmese Jungle 1853

It is possible in the dark of night when a soldier marching can’t discern the crackling in the forest under his own feet from the crackling of his neighbor’s, when the leading lantern glows several paces beyond him, when body odor and another’s breathing is his only assurance he’s among comrades; their guide got lost. Commanding sergeant Matthew McCune of this British East India Company contingent of Sepoys, elephants, bullocks and the arsenal, supposed his guide got lost. Half an hour of searching later they returned to course. The next day, though, the guide’s innocent detraction was harder to believe.

About a year earlier, back in London the debate had been fierce before the war started. Burma, a distant foreign jungle to most British subjects; they didn’t want to spend treasure and lives trampling its fields and for nefarious purposes. But Lord Palmerston in the halls of power smelled a trade advantage and a faster route to the riches of China…

 

Levi Savage Before His Mission

We should all be grateful Levi Savage bombed his proselyting mission. Our Levi as you may know, stood with the folk in the pioneering tragedy of the Willie Handcart Company back in the mid-nineteenth century. He became our hero rescuing
immigrants as they braved terrain and weather to the point of starvation and near destruction on their way to Utah. Most recently Jasen Wade played him in the movie 17 Miracles. That peppery beard and those pearly whites never made hat hair look so fine.

Anyway, he struggled on his mission before that movie heroism ever arraigned him in the halls of our memories. Before his famous Willie Handcart gig he was preaching. In a war zone. In Burma. Well,…trying to.

Remind you where Burma is again? Sure. If you poke your finger through Kansas and it is long enough,…

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