Tackling Taboos in Chicago Setting

Susan Muaddi Darraj

Chicago (A Novel)
By Alaa al-Aswany
New York: Harper Collins, 2008

On October 22, 2008, I listened to an interview of Egyptian dentist-turned-journalist-turned-novelist Alaa al-Aswany on NPR's "The Diane Rehm Show." During the interview, Rehm addressed the sexual themes in al-Aswany's latest novel, "Chicago": "In your books… you’ve written explicitly about many taboo subjects including homosexuality and abortion. Why do you believe you have not been silenced as a result of writing about such things?"

A Vision of Arab-American Underworld in 'Souls'

By Shakir Mustafa

A Pair of Misguided Souls (in Arabic)
By Mahmoud Saeed
Beirut, Dar Al Adab, 2003

In his post 9/11 novel, Mahmoud Saeed presents an unmistakable Arab-American underworld of outright scoundrels: drug dealers, thieves, counterfeiters, smugglers, pimps. Interestingly, Saeed does not suggest that his characters have been pushed into criminal behavior as a consequence of collective victimization after that atrocity.  Instead, the crackdown after 9/11 exposes the existence of such human types.


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