Arab journalist Dunya Khair usually sticks to safe subjects in her writing like hobbies and education. But after she is berated by a group of her husband’s male friends, she is galvanized to begin writing about gender inequality and her own apostasy.
Living in an unnamed Middle Eastern country which is under a modern democracy, but still stuck in many old ways, Dunya is threatened, ostracized and ultimately jailed for her words. Trapped in her jail cell, Dunya tells her story with vulnerable and engaging introspection. In a country where religion and politics are inextricably linked, Dunya’s public proclamation that she does not believe Islam is the one true faith is a bombshell. But paradoxically, it is Dunya’s faith in her message, in herself and in Muslim teachings that guide her way.
Author Al-Yagout weaves Dunya’s story as Incisive social critique mixed with blazing prose set against a backdrop imbued with violence but also love and beauty. Dunya deals with the realities of prison and the break-up of her family, friends and country who are all shocked by her article. Dunya’s introspective questioning of her religion and identity are as eloquently written as the descriptions of the desert city on a coastline full of sparkling luxury high rises and tent city slums in which the the narrator lives.
When Dunya is released from prison, pardoned by the ruling family after an international outcry about her inhumane treatment, she believes her ordeal to be over. But Dunya is faced with more devastating personal losses as she navigates life outside and tries to heal her relationship with her husband, mother and siblings, Al-Yagout explores the consequences and triumphs of standing up for what you believe in through Dunya’s uniquely quirky perspective.
Though at times, the novel gets bogged down in exposition rather than plot and action, Dunya’s strong character is enough to keep the reader engaged in her struggles and triumphs, which Al-Yagout writes with great vulnerability.
Told with dark humor and wit, WHEN THE HABOOB SINGS is a timely literary tale about gender inequality and the power of singing your truth aloud.
~Royal Young for IndieReader