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Secret Sonby Laila Lalami
Thursday, September 18, 2014 07:30 PM
Powell's City of Books on Burnside, Portland, OR
In this stunning work of historical fiction, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America — a Moroccan slave whose testimony was left out of the official record. In 1527, the conquistador Panfilo de Narvaez sailed with a crew of 600 men. His goal was to claim what is now the Gulf Coast of the United States for the Spanish crown. Within a year of landing in Florida, only four members of his expedition were left alive, including a young slave called Estebanico. The Moor's Account (Pantheon) brilliantly captures Estebanico's voice and vision, giving us an alternate narrative for this famed expedition.
Synopses & Reviews
Youssef el-Mekki, a young man of nineteen, is living with his mother in the slums of Casablanca when he discovers that the father he believed to be dead is, in fact, alive and eager to befriend and support him. Leaving his mother behind, Youssef assumes a life he could only dream of: a famous and influential father, his own penthouse apartment, and all the luxuries associated with his new status. His future appears assured until an abrupt reversal of fortune sends him back to the streets and his childhood friends, where a fringe Islamic group, known simply as the Party, has set up its headquarters.
In the spirit of The Inheritance of Loss and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Laila Lalami's powerful first novel explores the struggle for identity, the need for family, and the desperation that overtakes ordinary lives in a country divided by class, politics, and religion.
"Secret Son gives us...a nuanced depiction of the roots of Islamic terrorism, written by someone who intimately knows one of the stratified societies where it grows." New York Times
"A brilliant story of alienation and desperation that easily transports readers to hot, dusty Casablanca; highly recommended." Library Journal
In the spirit of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Lalami's powerful first novel explores the struggle for identity, the need for family, and the desperation that overtakes ordinary lives in a country divided by class, politics, and religion.
Raised by his mother in a one-room house in the slums of Casablanca, Youssef El Mekki has always had big dreams of living another life in another world. Suddenly his dreams are within reach when he discovers that his father — whom he'd been led to believe was dead — is very much alive. A wealthy businessman, he seems eager to give his son a new start. Youssef leaves his mother behind to live a life of luxury, until a reversal of fortune sends him back to the streets and his childhood friends. Trapped once again by his class and painfully aware of the limitations of his prospects, he becomes easy prey for a fringe Islamic group.
In the spirit of The Inheritance of Loss and The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Laila Lalami's debut novel looks at the struggle for identity, the need for love and family, and the desperation that grips ordinary lives in a world divided by class, politics, and religion.
About the Author
Laila Lalami was born in Rabat, Morocco, and educated in Morocco, Britain, and the United States. Her work has appeared in the Independent, the Los Angeles Times, the Oregonian, the Baltimore Review, and elsewhere. She is an assistant professor in the creative writing department at the University of California, Riverside.
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