By Mhani Alaoui$ 16
“A lush, vividly rendered exploration of the link between art and the depths of the psyche.” —Booklist
About this book
An evocative novel from the award-winning author of Dreams of Maryam Tair.
Aya Dane creates mixed media paintings and writes a diary in her studio above a strange, old Cambridge townhouse. There she lives alone, having left her childhood home in Tangiers. Though she has carved a name for herself in the art world, she allows herself just one close relationship, to an intimate companion named David.
One day, Aya receives a letter from a powerful, enigmatic patron, an invitation to submit her ultimate work to his collection. If he deems it worthy, he promises, her art will live on forever. Aya finds herself unable to resist the mysterious invitation, and challenge.
But as she begins to work on the commissioned painting, from her top-floor perch, the streets of Tangiers reappear to her. Their white-and-blue walls, purple bougainvillea, sweetness and sorrow bring back to life people and events she thought she'd left behind. Aya becomes haunted by forgotten scenes, only to discover that she herself is being painted, on a canvas from which it seems impossible to escape.Brand: Mhani Alaoui
“Alaoui’s follow up to Dreams of Maryam Tair (2015) is the story of a troubled artist living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Thirtysomething Aya Dane lives in virtual isolation, seeing only her blue-blood lover David, whose background couldn’t be more different from her own. Aya grew up in Tangiers in a crumbling family, her parents growing more distant from one another as Aya’s older brother, Kareem, succumbed to religious fanaticism and distanced himself from the family. Aya left her past behind when she came to Cambridge on a scholarship for college, but the painful secrets of her past come to the surface when a mysterious collector known only as Ari commissions a piece from her, and her brother resurfaces, saying he’s in town and wants to see her. These two events force Aya to confront everything she’s been avoiding, from the cracks in her relationship with David to the deeply buried traumas of her past. A lush, vividly rendered exploration of the link between art and the depths of the psyche.” —Booklist
“This is an engaging and at times suspenseful story about the creative process, trauma, and migration, aided by Alaoui’s skillful pacing and vivid descriptions. While the characters populating Aya’s life can verge on caricature, Aya herself, as an immigrant, a woman, and an artist, embodies the ways in which identity and memory mold one another. She is a complex combination of drive and uncertainty, and it can be riveting to watch her work as Alaoui describes the way she deliberates on color and texture, perception and purpose… The lyrical prose pays off more than the psychological twists and turns, but the combination leaves a lasting impression.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A provocative and timely book for the New Year… Aya Dane is an elegant exploration of invisible cultural memories, creatively rendered on a canvas of migration. Here in her second novel, Mhani Alaoui shapes a well-thought-out protagonist with astute observations on the fear of those who are different—and on walls… Alaoui goes into the importance of light and time of day to an artist. She brings in deaths, drug busts, and fanatic Islam. Magical realism crops up from time to time. She parses hate and its origins. PTSD in victims of sexual violence is not overlooked. The storyline rouses questions: What does it take to survive in America? How do images on a screen trump facts? Is the migrant condition definable? Can one generation right the wrongs of past generations? When does cultural memory affect each of us? Mhani Alaoui tosses so much together that, after a while, the jumble makes no sense. But then, all of a sudden, it does.” —Woven Tale Press Magazine
Alaoui , Mhani
Casablanca , Morocco
5"å_"å x 8"å