FICTION

In Praise of Hatred

Thomas Dunne: St. Martin's. Apr. 2014. 320p. tr. from Arabic by Leri Price. ISBN 9781250052346. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466853898. F
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The unnamed narrator of this novel is a young girl growing up in a house of women in Aleppo, Syria. In school she becomes involved with a prayer group of devout women who have been influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood. As the novel progresses, the girl's religious devotion turns into zealotry, particularly as the secular regime in power cracks down on Islamists in a bloody fashion. While the action seems to be torn out of today's newspapers, it is actually set in the late 1970s and early 1980s when a rebellion against the current leader's father was brutally suppressed. In chilling terms, the narrator describes her embrace of fanaticism and her rejection of the middle ground. Although it was banned in Syria, this novel was named a finalist for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Khalifa's unflinching depiction of religious extremism, exquisitely rendered from a woman's point of view, explains how a dictator's murderous activities can turn a sheltered young woman into an individual desirous of martyrdom.
VERDICT This beautiful, powerful, and terrifying novel should be read by anyone trying to understand the crisis in the Middle East today. [Library marketing.]

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