Dreams of Maryam Tair
Blue Boots and Orange Blossoms
published 2015 • 5.25" x 8" • 352 pages
ISBN 9781566560917 • paperback • $18.00 •
“The author laces together legend and myth, epic and quest, realism, fantasy into a complex novel, rich with meanings… everywhere the writing sings of the literary talents and acuity of its author. Hers is a new voice to listen out for.”
—The Washington Times
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AN EXCITING DEBUT AND AN INSPIRING WORK OF MAGIC REALISM
Outside of time, the legendary queen Sheherazade tells a little girl a story that has happened, and is yet to happen. Dreams of Maryam Tair brings readers to a Casablanca of myth and metaphor, of curses, witches, djinns and demons. But it is also a very present-day Casablanca: a raw, pitiless landscape of crumbling urbanism and rusty ports, of bureaucrats and student revolts, and of a deep human solitude. During the Casablanca Bread Riots of 1981, a child is born to a mother surveilled and detained. She is born with the scent of orange blossoms and a body filled with pain. They call her Maryam Tair. A special, singular child, she is prophesized to carry three perfect gifts—and one relentless curse.
Richly evoking a world where magic abounds and age-old secrets are revealed, Mhani Alaoui seamlessly interweaves stories ancient and forgotten with a sprawling multigenerational family saga.
Mhani Alaoui, born in 1977, is a Casablanca-based writer. She lived in the US for twelve years, where she studied literature, the recent history and cultures of the Arab world, and obtained a PhD in anthropology from Princeton University. She then decided to move back to Casablanca, where she worked as research director at the Foundation of one of Morocco's largest corporations. A couple of years ago, she decided to leave her job and devote her time to writing. She currently lives in Casablanca, Morocco, with her husband and two young sons. Dreams of Maryam Tair is her first novel.
“Dreams of Maryam Tair is an arresting tale with extraordinary appeal. There is here a real talent at work. Peoples and places come alive and are fully recognizable. In a sober style the author says it all, as it is: violence, abjection, misery, class arrogance, but also wonders and, perhaps, regenerative forces…”
—Abdellah Hammoudi, Princeton University, author of A Season in Mecca
“Linking fairy-tale magic with harsh realism, Moroccan writer Mhani Alaoui tells a captivating story that draws on the mythological past, yet has much relevance for contemporary social and political problems in the Arab world… This novel is a delight to read as much for its lyrical, incisive prose as for its hopeful message that serves to remind of the original goals of the Arab uprising which are hard to discern today. Alaoui skillfully matches her prose to her subject, waxing lyrical in the imaginative passages and abruptly changing to a sharper style in the realistic parts of the novel. She has broad knowledge of ancient texts and mythology, whether Arab, Berber or Greek, and uses it to show how history can be told and retold, interpreted and reinterpreted according to who is in power… Alaoui’s story suggests new ways of addressing gender inequality and social injustice. One doesn’t have to ride a bicycle around the world, but one must respect individual differences and rely on the power of love not coercion.”
—The Jordan Times
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