- Originally from Vermont, I now live in North Carolina. My work can be found in recent issues of REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters, The Jabberwock Review, The Emerson Review, Storyglossia, The MacGuffin, Confrontation, Passages North, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, wigleaf, and Pank, among others, and forthcoming from Gargoyle #57 and REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters. One of my stories has been translated into Farsi by Asadollah Amraee, and many others by Jalil Jafari, two of which have been published in the Iranian journal, Golestaneh Magazine. For two years I worked as an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. Currently, I serve as a mentor for Dzanc's Creative Writing Sessions. I'm working on two novels and a short story collection. In May, I was awarded the Carol Houck Smith Contributor Scholarship for the 2011 Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
The first story of Laila Lalami’s elegantly designed collection throws us into a tension-filled night with thirty Moroccans aboard a raft suited for eight. Through the unfolding of connected stories we come to know four of these desperate people intimately: Murad, Aziz, Faten, and Halima. They are all fleeing a life wrought with hardship in one form or another, in hopes of reaching the coast of Spain and promise of a better future. The trip is dangerous, and not all make it to the other side.
Lalami’s love for her characters is evident in the crisp, straightforward prose, and allowing us to see their dreams, their faults, their passions so vividly enables us to love them as well. In Part 1, we meet Murad, a lover of books and literature, who seeks a life in which such a calling is not as useless to his family as it is in Morocco. Aziz, jobless, newly married, is desperate to prove himself worthy of his new wife and to prove to himself he can succeed. Halima flees her abusive husband because she fears he may take her three children if she divorces him. And Faten, a young religious woman is forced to look outside her country when the corruption within gets her thrown out of university.
In Part 2, we learn what becomes of these four characters after their harrowing trip. We learn who must go back and face the difficulties they tried to escape. And even more than that, we learn of the complexities of social expectations; we come to understand the strength of conviction; and most importantly, we become certain of the resilience of the human spirit.
Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits shows us a view of Morocco through varied and just eyes. It raises many questions, yet doesn’t attempt to offer pat answers. It inspires, enlightens, and at times, moves us to feel something unexpected. The writing is superb, the details, exquisite. This is an experience not to be missed.