Book - 2005
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"With her Muslim hijab, with her down-turned gaze, Najwa is invisible to most eyes, especially to the rich Arab families whose houses she cleans in London. Twenty years earlier, Najwa, then an aristocratic Westernized Sudanese, could have never imagined this new life. She was a student at the University of Khartoum, but her focus in life was on fashionable clothes, pop music, and parties. When a political coup forces Najwa's family into exile in London, she soon finds herself orphaned and completely alone. For the first time in her life, Najwa turns to the solace and companionship among the women at the mosque, and when she adopts the hijab, she begins to see the world anew. Then Najwa meets Tamer, the intense, lonely younger brother of her employer, and they find a common bond in her newfound faith and slowly, silently, begin to fall in love."--Back cover.
Publisher: New York : Grove Press, 2005
ISBN: 9780802170149
Characteristics: 276 pages ; 21 cm


From Library Staff

Leila Aboulela's American debut is a provocative, timely, and engaging novel about a young Muslim woman -- once privileged and secular in her native land and now impoverished in London -- gradually embracing her orthodox faith. With her Muslim hijab and down-turned gaze, Najwa is invisible to mos... Read More »

When Najwa's high-ranking father is arrested in a government coup, the former university student from a secular family in Sudan, finds herself working as a maid in London and embracing her orthodox faith. An engaging story for both adults and teens.

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Jul 05, 2015

This was a quick and easy read, and probably really a young adult book. Najwa is a privileged Muslim teenager, daughter of a wealthy leading governmental official, living a very secular life in Khartoum, Sudan. A coup changes everything. In exile in London their fortunes change, and Najwa is adrift. I found her change from free-wheeling teenager to subdued, pious woman thought-provoking. Definitely not the usual expectation we Westerners have of someone with the advantages she had. This is an interesting take on how to cope in a new environment, and I was carried along with it. For me, the story fell a bit short. I did not get the depth of emotion or character that would have really explained Najwa's choices.

Oct 09, 2013

The narrator is a woman who was exiled from Sudan to London following a coup, after which her father was executed. She comes down in the world from a position of privledge to working as a maid. She tells of her relationship with her twin brother, whose behaviour is not satisfactorily explained; a radical friend; a family for whom she works and others. Unlike other stories where the immigrant deals with integration to Western society, in this novel the woman identifies herself as a Muslim, not in terms of her nationality, and it is in Britain that she becomes religious and devout. The novel seemed in some ways naive, but Aboulela tells an interesting story.

emilymelissabee Sep 11, 2012

A beautifully written tale by a Sudanese storyteller that explores the intricacies of a contemporary migrant life, navigating between multiple worlds and never feeling quite successful in any of them.

Feb 05, 2009

Very interesting. I loved the flashbacks and comparison between both her opposite lives.:)


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Nov 10, 2008

This story is told from the perspective of a Sudanese girl struggling with her religious identity (Islamic) as well as the clashes in societal classes. Easy to read, well written.


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