I write this review after the close defeat of a potential US Senator, who believed among other things, that a Muslim should not serve in the US Senate because he wouldn’t swear on the Bible (said douche bag also believes that women should stay in the home and that sex with 14-year-old girls when you’re in your 30s is okay). This defeat occurred shortly after a sitting US president retweet the unverified “news” tweets of a British hate group. The tweets showed video supposedly showing Muslims behaving badly. A governmental group out of the Netherlands tweeted the president back and said, nope misbehaving dude was not immigrant and not Muslim, and was in jail. When quested about his use of fake news, the spokeswoman for the president who chants fake news 99% of time, said the reality of the videos wasn’t important, for the president felt they added to the conversation. When it was revealed that the last two “Muslim” terrorists had been radicalized after their arrival to the US, one could hear crickets chirping. Additionally, there are places in the US where a book that simply depicts a character who is Muslim is banned because it is promoting a religion other than Christianity. I have even taught students who refused to read part of the Korean in a World Lit Class, and before you ask, we had read parts of the Old and New Testament first (granted, I could understand the formal service member’s refusal. Didn’t agree with it, but could understand. The other students not so much).
Apparently, there are people in America who would feel right at home in the Reconquista, except for that Catholic bit because according to some of those Americans Catholics worship the Pope.
Ali’s novel is about a family in Granada right after the conquest by Ferdinand and Isabella. The family is stuck, unsure of whether or not their culture will survive because of the pressure to convert. In short, Ali is telling of the death of a culture, of a lost, one that the reader feels most keenly at the start of the book with the description of book burning.
Is Ali’s book flawless? No, and, in fact, it is in many ways one of those quiet books where everything is building but the bulk of the actual action is “small” family drama and issues -who will the daughters marry, what is the mystery of the old hermit, and whether a great aunt is truly mad. It is the focus on the quiet, on the family of quasi-believers who are not fully devout that Ali shows how hatred, extremism – on both sides – starts. For the actions of the Christians lead to hard choices of the Muslims, but it is those violent actions that also harden the Christians, against those values they should espouse. Ali’s book is warning, intentional or not, about hatred of a culture or religion and how it destroys all.