In her Muslim hijab, with her down-turned gaze, Najwa is invisible to most eyes, especially to the rich families whose houses she cleans. Twenty years ago, Najwa, then at university in Khartoum, would never have imagined that one day she would be a maid. An upper class westernised Sudanese, her dreams were to marry well and raise a family. Then a coup forces the young woman and her family into political exile in London. The years that follow hold more trials for Najwa and the realization that she has come down in the world. But she finds solace - in her visits to the Regents Park Mosque, the companionship among the Muslims she meets there and strength in the hijab she adopts. Her dreams of love may have shattered but her awakening to Islam has given her a different peace. Then Najwa meets Tamer, the intense, lonely younger brother of her employer. They find a common bond in faith and slowly, silently, begin to fall in love
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Leila Aboulela was born in 1964 and grew up in Khartoum. She is the author of two books: a novel, The Translator which was published to critical acclaim in 1999 and a book of short stories, Coloured Lights published in 2000. Leila Aboulela lives between Djakarta and Aberdeen.From School Library Journal:
Adult/High School–The daughter of a wealthy government official, Najwa grows up pampered and carefree in western Sudan during the 1980s. With her 19th birthday, though, comes the overthrow of the president and arrest of her father by the new government. Najwa; her twin brother, Omar; and their mother flee to London. Within a few years, she is completely alone: her father has been executed, her mother succumbs to a fatal illness, and Omar is in prison for an assault conviction stemming from his drug abuse. Once a fashionable university student in Khartoum, the young woman makes ends meet as a nanny to a wealthy Arab family. Clothed in traditional Muslim hijab, she has suddenly become invisible within the city, much as the Ethiopian servants used to blend into the background in her parents household. Yet even as she comes to terms with this anonymity, a spark develops between her and the younger brother of her employer, and she is forced to confront the chasm between servant and master. Aboulela offers a captivating glimpse into one womans journey through the various strata of society. The protagonists experiences give her a deeper reliance on her faith and help her to recognize the shallowness of the life she left behind. This is the authors first work to be published in the U.S. Students will appreciate the story not only for its insights into Muslim faith and traditions, but also for the ways her compellingly real characters relate to one another.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA
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