Book Review: ‘Hookah Nights’ explores life in an ever-changing Egypt

In her latest collection of vivid short stories, “Hookah Nights,” author Anne-Marie Drosso takes her readers through Egypt’s political history. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Book Review: ‘Hookah Nights’ explores life in an ever-changing Egypt

CHICAGO: In her latest collection of vivid short stories, “Hookah Nights,” author Anne-Marie Drosso takes her readers through Egypt’s political history. Through Drosso’s 14 stories, one journeys through time, beginning with the Suez Crisis, and ends up knee-deep in the Arab Spring. While each story centers on the politics that alter the country, each also touches on the people affected by those politics — Egyptians and foreigners alike.

From the dry, hot winds of the khamaseens — cyclonic-type winds — that cover Cairo’s streets in dust and sand and welcome spring, to the shores of Alexandria and the pull of the Mediterranean Sea, Drosso introduces the reader to the landscape of Egypt and its multifaceted characters. Her characters’ lives revolve around politics — they have lost and gained through their leaders’ decisions and have had their futures altered by the governing powers in Egypt. From foreign diplomats and unwanted international attention, to argumentative brothers, troubled spouses, wayward journalists, revolutionaries and home-grown heroes and villains, Drosso showcases the difficult decisions one must make in order to secure a stable future.

Drosso’s characters live ordinary lives, but each is driven by politics, whether they know it or not. Her stories are about adjusting to life in an ever-changing landscape as much as they are about the rule of the land. From Gamal Abdel Nasser to Muhammad Mursi and the rise of the military under Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, each story plunges head-first into Egypt’s streets to understand its complex politics.

Able to show Egypt in different shades of light, Drosso’s stories bring some characters together and pull others apart. She touches upon generational differences in thinking and explores how staunch minds can sometimes cave in the face of adversity and fear.

Drosso portrays a full spectrum of relatable citizens, their fears and joys transcending borders. Her stories weave in and out of one another seamlessly, as if moving from city to city, street to street, peering into windows of homes and the families that occupy them. The ever-present common thread among all her characters is the resilience with which they live in an ever-changing Egypt.

Drosso was born in Egypt and is the author of another short-story collection and novel. “Hookah Nights” was published by Darf Publishers.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer

Updated 21 February 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Dreyer’s English by Benjamin Dreyer

  • The book not only lays down rules but offers tips for writers who want to be clear and elegant as well as correct

Benjamin Dreyer has presented a splendid book that is part manual, part memoir, and chockfull of suggestions for tightening and clarifying prose. 

“Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style” is a treat for those who delight in words and arranging them well. 

The book not only lays down rules but offers tips for writers who want to be clear and elegant as well as correct, states Sarah Lyall in a review published in The New York Times. 

Dreyer is vice president, executive managing editor and copy chief, of Random House. He began his publishing career as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. 

A graduate of Northwestern University, he lives in New York City. He has copyedited books by authors including E. L. Doctorow, David Ebershoff, Frank Rich, and Elizabeth Strout, as well as Let Me Tell You, a volume of previously uncollected work by Shirley Jackson.