Book Giveaway: ‘The Bamboo Stalk,’ by Saud Alsanousi

Yesterday, my review of Saud Alsanousi’s The Bamboo Stalk — a novel that translates into a coming-of-age YA crossover about identity and status — appeared in the Guardian:

bambooIt opens:

The Bamboo Stalk is a retelling of the east-to-west immigrant narrative, but this time it’s east-to-east: a half-Filipino, half-Kuwaiti teen moves from an impoverished life in the Philippines to the “paradise” of his father’s Kuwait. The book is a page-turner, following its narrator through harrowing setbacks, but its depth comes from the way it holds a mirror up to Kuwaiti society, and to Gulf Arabs’ relationship to migrant labour.

The novel received wide acclaim in Arabic, winning the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) in 2013. In Jonathan Wright’s capable English translation, the prose is so fast-moving and guileless that it reads like a young-adult novel, but this lack of sophistication allows Arab readers to re-see Kuwait through the eyes of a callow newcomer, named both Isa and Jose. Keep reading.

The IPAF-winning book, which was launched in London at the end of April, is set to come out in the US in September.

If you’re interested in a copy of the book: Post below with one book you’d suggest to other ArabLit readers as “summer reading” and a short note (a sentence is fine) on why. The book need not be a recent release, nor particularly summery.

Please note: I have only one giveaway copy, so I’ll do a drawing on May 31, 2015.


  1. Dear Mr. Kawabata by Rachid el Daif. His writing style in that particular book keeps me coming back to it. Others might disagree, but I read this book after being exposed to very classic and rigorous Arabic writing and so it felt, to me, like a breath of fresh air.

  2. Zill al-Shams, by Taalib el-Rifaai.
    As I read the synopsis of The Bamboo Stalk, my mind went back to this book by the Kuwaiti author who tells a similar story of migration (going from hope to disappointment, to entrapped desperation leading to death) of an Egyptian character.

  3. I recommend Love is Power or Something Like That, a collection of short stories by A. Igoni Barrett. The stories center on life in Nigeria and are wonderful to read.

  4. Radwa Ashours “Spectres”, because it is terribly good and sad and intelligent and original, about life and death and love and the cruel things people do to each other – let’s read and remenber Radwa Ashour this summer!

  5. I recommend “Love in Exile” By Bahaa Taher. It retells and depicts the Palestinian cause with a parallel line of the Hero’s love story and death away from his homeland

  6. Friendly Fire by Alaa Al Aswany …. Because I love short stories and the author does an awesome job of telling stories about everyday Egyptian lives.

  7. Siraaj: an Arab Tale by Rawda Ashour. Told from multiple perspectives, this tale of the colonial take-over in the midst of a popular uprising on a small isolated Arabian island, is as much a comment on society today as it is on European colonization. History repeating itself, masterfully woven and rich. Pensive and thoughtful.

  8. I invite you to read:

    Lamp of Umm Hashim by Yahya Hakki. — Because of one single sentence in the book, where the image opens up a crack in the universe.

    Sinan Antoon’s I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody. City Lights Books. 2007. ISBN 978-0-87286-457-3 — Because of the fantastic imagination in play with the letters of the alphabet. Torture, in any context, is ugly; though — as long as it is possible — the stories of torture must be told.

    Dunyā Mīkhāʼīl’s The War Works Hard. Translated by Elizabeth Winslow. New Directions Publishing. 2005. ISBN 978-0-8112-1621-0 — I have read this over and over, heart-broken and with a greater love for the world. Beautiful poetry: “chasing the falling ball of the sky,/ while the sand counted/the footprints of the moon/carrying the child to heaven” (Mikhail, 1993/2005, p. 71).

  9. Let me say first, I love this blog simply because I learn so much about literature I would otherwise know nothing about. THANK YOU! Arab literature is a rich tradition and I wish more of it made its way west.

    Yes, I would like a copy of this book! 🙂 I don’t know many Arab authors – which is why I come to this blog – but I have read ‘Hope And Other Dangerous Pursuits’ by Laila Lalami and I learned a lot about Morocco from it and I do like her writing style. She has another one out that I do intend to read as well.

    I wish I could add more recommendations but outside a poem here and there or the works of Edward Said – which I would recommend – I don’t know any. Sorry Thanks again for the blog.

    1. Jett,

      Thanks! And this is plenty — anyhow, the recommendation needn’t be Arab/Arabic literature. Anything that you think others would like is great.

      1. In that case let me add ‘Lakota Woman’ by Mary Crow Dog. One of the best memoirs I have ever read.

        1. Oh my goodness, I think I read it twenty years ago!! Does that make me 100? It might.

          1. Then I am right there with you. lol

        2. I just watched the film of that on my iPhone after a Facebook friend posted about it. Brilliant.

          1. The film version was awesome. I didn’t know they had it available for streaming now. For awhile, it was near impossible to find.

  10. I’d recommend Hisham Aidi’s ‘Rebel Music’. It’s a treasure filled with information and connects the dots of music, society, politics, and so much more – dots I never saw connected before.

  11. “Stoner” by John Williams. Splendid.

  12. I would recommend “The boy from Aleppo who painted the war”, by algerian/syrian writer Sumia Sukkar, it is the war in Syria seen through the eyes of an autistic boy. I have to admit that reading this book you may laugh and cry at the same time…

  13. I strongly recommend A Thousand Splendid Sons by Khaled Hosseini. it is also available in Arabic in a good translation.

  14. I’d love a copy of this book and it’s great to see a writer from the Gulf making such an impact in the media.
    I’d recommend Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, a brilliant family saga. But just as importantly it is so vital and reassuring to read a searing criticism of Western colonialism written by an outstanding American writer.

  15. I recommend The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke, translated by Jamie Bulloch. It’s a breathless and spontaneous monologue by a girl in her late teens about the members of her German family and particularly the autocratic father who has absconded. Reminiscent of the great Austrian monologist Thomas Bernhard. Elements of Joyce and Beckett but more down-to-earth and accessible.

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