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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A young boy is growing up in an Arab family in Palestine, with a father full of pride and anger toward the Jews who will not give them their land. This young boy is very good at surviving, although he doesn't always keep his pride. Because he does well on a test at school, he is given the opportunity to attend a Jewish boarding school and receive excellent training. He doesn't want to go, but his father won't let him back out. So he goes to the Jewish school, but to survive he ends up working to blend in. He can fade into either culture, and does so throughout his life. But .. as with anyone who lives in two cultures .. the question then becomes if he belongs in either one.

Kashua gives a wonderful picture of Arabic life. Narrative-style .. not by explaining or show and tell .. but simply by putting the reader in the room with events as they happen. Enough is explained to understand something very 'other' from what I know, but not so much that one is ever bored. The stories are told vignette style, with pieces and chunks missing. But everything flows together beautifully. I remember Larq talking about how fantasy or science fiction works when authors have so crafted the respective world or culture that slang and expectations about how life works. These rules or expectations are taken for granted, in a way. Which is true of Kashua's writing as well. Things which he has experienced, growing up in similar places to the main character, make some things 'commonplace' for him that I have never experienced in my life. The reader is given a gift in this glimpse into daily life. Not just important events or big stories .. but family relationships, village etiquette, violence, religious rituals .. this book is worth savoring, both for the writing style and the cultural learning to be gained simply by reading a story.

Title:Dancing Arabs
Author: Sayed Kashua
Date published:2002
Genre: Fiction, Cultural
Number of pages: 227
Notes: Given by Jude


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