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Muslim Journeys in Translation

What better way to experience Islamic culture than through novels written in the characters' native tongues? Originally published in languages such as Arabic, Farsi, French, German, Urdu and Serbo-Croatian, these voices are now accessible in English translation. This list was created to enhance the library's Muslim Journeys programming throughout 2013, sponsored through a grant from the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

 

Girls of Riyadh

From the Arabic: Billed as the Arab "Sex and the City," its four affluent female characters were considered racy enough to merit this book's censorship in Saudi Arabia. University students working their way toward careers, but dating and rebelling all the while, they passionately make their mark on a global world despite living in an insular society.

 

The Yacoubian Building

From the Arabic: Aswany updates Mahfouz to the 1990s, describing contemporary Egyptian society through the interweaving stories of the residents of an apartment building in Cairo.

 

Metro: A Story of Cairo

From the Arabic: A hard-boiled graphic novel of an individual navigating the clandestine, corrupt, and criminally labyrinthine society of Mubarak, foreshadowing the Arab Spring.

 

Fireflies in the Mist

From the Urdu: A novel describing the relationship of religion in South Asia through characters of distinct traditions who share a historical geography that defines their individual fates.

 

A Sky So Close

From the Arabic: Born to an Iraqi father and a British mother, a girl spends the first years of her life in a bucolic Iraqi village. Then the Iran-Iraq War begins, and her mixed heritage causes friction, causing a rift with her mother. By the time she moves to London, years later, she must examine her background and relationships in a new context. Spans nearly three decades.

 

Midaq Alley

From the Arabic: Mahfouz builds his novelization of Egypt in an alley of Cairo in the 1940s, a microcosm of a wider world immediately recognizable.

 

Censoring an Iranian Love Story

From the Farsi: In the 90s, Mandanipour was forbidden from sharing his novels with his native Iran. Later, he moved to the United States and wrote this book (still prohibited in his country) in which two lovers begin their relationship in a library's stacks but are restricted by the state and their parents. To demonstrate what would be censored in Iran, Mandanipour crosses out certain phrases and passages. Because these sections aren't completely blacked out, the reader can still experience the entire novel while at the same instance understanding what could be lost. This is the author's first novel to be translated into English.

 

Cities of Salt

From the Arabic: The beginning of an epic story, told over multiple novels (in English translation, the series currently includes a second novel, The Trench, and a third novel, Variations on Night and Day), that describes the profound impact and cacophonous reverberations that the discovery of oil had in the Middle East.

 

Snow

From the Turkish: When an exiled poet returns to his native Turkey, tragic events in a poor, remote region begin to pique his long-silent writing interest. It's not coincidental that his trip takes him back to an old flame, a woman now divorced from a husband being drawn to Islamic politics. As local debate about headscarves accelerates, and secular versus Muslim tension escalates, the poet falls victim to the violence that he's trying to document.

 

Ali and Nino: A Love Story

From the German: In the early 20th century, a rich, Azerbaijani Muslim boy falls for a Georgian Christian girl. Though they endure a rigorous escape to Persia in order to be together, war nearly divides them after they return to the Caucasus. The true identity of the novel's pseudonymous author is still an enigma.

 

Season of Migration to the North

From the Arabic: Cited as the most important Arab novel of the twentieth century, this novel brilliantly explores the transnational identity crisis inherent to post-colonial Africa.

 

The Fortress

From the Serbo-Croatian: Selimovic, a Bosnian Muslim, writes the first-person narration of Ahmet Shabo, a man whose experience in war has predicated a dissolution of the auspiciously moral bonds of social custom.