‘No Sun in the Closed Room’: An Exploration of Kuwaiti-Palestinian Identity and Belonging

Writer and translator Jenan Alhamli has put together a special section — with interview, excerpt, and review — to celebrate the 2021 release of Eman Assad’s debut novel, No Sun in the Closed Room, an exploration of Kuwaiti-Palestinian identity and belonging set in late summer, 1991.

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INTERVIEW: Novelist Eman Assad on Belonging and Identity in Kuwait

“Our identity was wholly attached [to our father’s], and a new duty was put in place, whereby you needed to express your loyalty to Kuwait. And how do you do that? By accepting the insulting names your country is called without objection.”

FROM THE NOVEL: An Excerpt from Eman Assad’s ‘No Sun in the Closed Room’

And oh, he was so ready to see the look on his uncle’s face once he realized his magic wand had betrayed him. Once he realized that Ghassan’s revolution would not die out, that it would go on feeding off the ashes of his body. The fire burning up his heart would rain hell on his uncle and his mother and everyone on this fucking mortal plane.

REVIEW: Post-Liberation Kuwait: Finding the Sun in the Summer of 1991

Eman Assad successfully captures the complexities of this struggle between Kuwaitis and Palestinians, and the lives of the “halfsies”; those who fall in between, not knowing exactly where to land, as they’re being constantly pushed by one group toward the other. Eman doesn’t leave Ghassan in Kuwait’s glowing and beaming September sun; instead, she hints at a return.

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Eman Assad is a Jordanian literary translator and author residing in Kuwait and the editor @thmanyah. Assad has a Master’s Degree in American Studies from the University of Jordan (2005). She is translator of books by Graham Swift, Margaret Atwood, Claire Messud, Ian McEwan, Virginia Woolf, James Agee, and Octavia Butler, and is author of Zainab and the Golden Thread (2014) and No Sun in the Closed Room (2021).

Jenan Alhamli is a writer and a translator from Kuwait. 

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