The American Granddaughter$ 15
WINNER OF FRANCE’S THE LAGARDERE PRIZE
SHORTLISTED FOR THE INTERNATIONAL PRIZE OF ARABIC FICTION
“This excellent second novel from Kachachi … is a fast-paced, insightful look at the Iraq War and the torn allegiances of American immigrants whose loyalties and identities are in two places at once.” — Publishers Weekly
About this book
In her award-winning novel, Inaam Kachachi portrays the dual tragedy of her native land: America’s failure and the humiliation of Iraq.
The American Granddaughter depicts the American occupation of Iraq through the eyes of a young Iraqi-American woman, who returns to her country as an interpreter for the US Army. Through the narrator’s conflicting emotions, we see the tragedy of a country which, having battled to emerge from dictatorship, then finds itself under foreign occupation.
At the beginning of America’s occupation of Iraq, Zeina returns to her war-torn homeland as an interpreter for the US Army. Her formidable grandmother—the only family member that Zeina believes she has in Iraq—gravely disapproves of her granddaughter’s actions. Then Zeina meets Haider and Muhaymin, two “brothers” she knows nothing of, and falls deeply in love with Muhaymin, a militant in the Al Mehdi Army. These experiences force her to question all her values.Brand: Inaam Kachachi
“Originally published in Arabic in 2008 and short-listed for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Kachachi’s war novel follows the internalized musings of an Iraqi-born American working as a translator for U.S. military forces after Saddam Hussein’s fall. When the Iraq War begins, 30-ish Zeina has been living in Detroit for 15 years. Her Eastern Orthodox family emigrated from Baghdad after her father’s arrest and torture when she was a teen. Although her well-educated parents have never fully adjusted to their less privileged lives in exile, Zeina feels at home as an Arab American: Her father instilled in her a love and knowledge of Arab literature and her friends are mostly Arab; but her beer-loving boyfriend, Calvin, is White and Zeina is steeped in American pop culture, using movie titles to define specific moments in her tale. Zeina signs up as a translator for reasons patriotic—despair over 9/11—as well as financial—up to $186,000 per year in salary. But returning to her homeland and reuniting with her fiercely nationalistic, anti-American maternal grandmother, Rahma, make Zeina question her divided loyalties. She feels kinship with other American soldiers on the various bases where she’s posted, willingly accompanying them on raids. Yet she falls passionately in love with Muhaymen, an active member of a Shiite militia group fighting the Americans. Although sharpened memories pull her toward her Iraqi roots, Zeina returns to Detroit between her two tours of duty only to feel like a ‘dog with two homes.’ During her second tour, she realizes the divide between her and Muhaymen, a newly devout Muslim, is unbreachable. The novel’s narration, in part by Zeina and in part by a writer-self ‘sitting shoulder to shoulder by my side’ who wants to villainize Zeina on Rahma’s behalf, represents her existential struggle as an American, an Iraqi, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, and a woman. There are no heroes here, but even possible enemies are portrayed with compassion and complexity.” — Kirkus Reviews
“This excellent second novel from Kachachi (Stream of Hearts), winner of the Lagardère Award in France, centers on the experiences of an American-Iraqi translator during the U.S.-Iraq War. After fleeing Baghdad as a child, Zeina Behnam grows up in Detroit with her mother and drug-addicted brother. In Zeina’s late 20s, the September 11 terrorist attacks rock her Arab-American community. Motivated by a bewildering combination of patriotism, homesickness, and desire for economic security, Zeina joins the U.S. Army as an Arabic interpreter. In Iraq, she is assigned to Saddam Hussein’s birthplace, Tikrit, and operates from the ruins of one of Hussein’s palaces. She also arranges clandestine meetings in Baghdad with her Catholic grandmother, Rahma, Zeina’s only remaining family in Iraq. Lonely and aging Rahma is at first thrilled to reconnect with her granddaughter, but is horrified to discover Zeina’s role assisting the “occupiers.” As Zeina fights to preserve her relationship with Rahma—as well as her quickly-waning ideals of an American-liberated Iraq—she falls in love with Muhaymen, a member of the anti-American Mahdi Army. This is a fast-paced, insightful look at the Iraq War and the torn allegiances of American immigrants whose loyalties and identities are in two places at once.” —Publishers Weekly
“We let ourselves be won over by this novel that describes with such faithfulness and emotion the tearing apart of a country and a woman forever caught between two shores.” —Le Monde
“Full of poetry and freshness…” —Guide de la rentree litteraire, Lire/Virgin
About the Author
Nariman Youssef is an Egyptian writer and translator. She obtained a BSc in computer science from the American University in Cairo, has master’s degrees from Birkbeck College and the University of Edinburgh, and is currently a doctoral candidate at Manchester University. She has translated poetry by Omani poet Abdullah al Ryami and is the author of Summer of Unrest: Tahrir—18 Days of Grace.