Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I'm not so clever with post titles, but this one fits both the book and the fact that I forgot to write about it (I read this before The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop). But indeed, Once in a Promised Land has characters feeling misplaced, though not so much forgotten. The book tells the story of Selwa and Jassim, a married couple from Jordan who have been living in Arizona for quite some time when the World Trade Center attacks happen. Laila Halaby depicts the turmoil in their lives from the new (unfounded) suspicions surrounding them as well as their own personal struggles. It feels like their problems would have happened anyway, but the attacks simply force things to happen more quickly. Halaby uses an old folktale as a frame, directing our attention to the monsters we must fight and the cleverness required to defeat them.

This isn't so much a story about America or September 11 or the Middle East as it is a story of people and how life is so easily altered by the world around us.

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