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A Sky So Closeby Betool Khedairi
Synopses & Reviews
This haunting coming-of-age story about a girl growing up in wartime Iraq was the subject of heated controversy when it was published in the Middle East; now in English, it offers American readers a rare chance to experience an Iraqi childhood.
The frank, determined narrator is a schoolgirl living in a small town in the Iraqi countryside when the book opens. Torn between the cultures of her parents, she loves the simple pleasures of provincial life in her father’s native land but, at the urging of her English mother, she is thrown into the study of Western music and ballet and becomes a devoted dancer by the time the family relocates to Baghdad. Even as the city around her is transformed by the blackouts and
deprivations of the war between Iran and Iraq, she propels herself passionately through the full range of teenage discovery. The death of her father, her first love affair, and her mother’s unexpected illness carry her into adulthood and ultimately to London, where she confronts, with surprising results, the other half of her East–West legacy.
A Sky So Close is a captivating look at contemporary Iraq from the inside out—a stunning re-creation of the surreality of life during wartime, and the story of a young woman coming to terms with the seemingly unbridgeable cultures from which she is formed.
Evocative and exquisite, A Sky So Close was first published to controversy in the Middle East. Now in English, it has received wide acclaim as a haunting coming-of-age tale that plunges into the heart of the cultural clash between East and West.
It is a story narrated by an unnamed girl born of an Iraqi father and an English mother. Raised in the very traditional Iraqi countryside, she is compelled to attend a Western school for music and ballet — and she aches for a sense of belonging. Her struggles and isolation only increase when her family moves first to Baghdad and then, at the outbreak of war, to England, where her most arduous personal trials await. In crystalline, poetic prose, Betool Khedairi presents a daringly fresh look into the soul of a woman formed by two worlds, yet fully accepted by neither.
About the Author
Betool Khedairi was born in Baghdad in 1965 to an Iraqi father and a Scottish mother. She received a B.A. in French literature from the University of Mustansirya and then traveled between Iraq, Jordan, and the United Kingdom, working in the food industry while writing A Sky So Close, which was published in Arabic in Lebanon in 1999. She currently lives in Amman, where she is working on her second novel.
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