A handful of times in my life I have finished a book and turned it over to start again. Sometimes I want to carry the book around with me even after I’ve closed the pages, just to look at the cover and remember. I finished reading I’jaam – An Iraqi Rhapsody by Sinan Antoon three days ago, and I keep going back to pick it up and read.
In this fictional memoir, a forgotten manuscript is found in a filing cabinet of an Iraqi prison. Someone must read through it and determine what should be done with it. The entire book is that manuscript, which was written by a poet jailed during Sadaam’s regime. The mixture of beauty and pain throughout reminds me of Elie Wiesel’s Night, a deeply moving story of a Nazi concentration camp victim.
Weighty in substance but not difficult to read, I’jaam deserves to go down in history as an account of what happened in the Iraq of Sadaam’s terror. This book is not political. It is deeply human, and no matter what your race, religion, or ethnicity, you will walking away with more understanding and compassion. The book’s 97 pages allows the reader to finish in a few submersed hours which gives it more of an impact.
Sinan Antoon was born in Baghdad and now lives in New York where he teaches Arabic literature and culture at NYU. He’s also a poet, a novelist, and a filmmaker, having co-directed and produced a documentary called About Baghdad.
Win Your Own Copy: If you want to experience I’jaam too, I am fortunate enough to have a copy to give away. Leave a comment here telling me what intrigues you about the book. For another entry, post a link on your blog to this giveaway. If you are subscribed to carp(e) libris reviews, you are already entered to win this and all other book giveaways here, but feel free to comment and link for extra entries as well. The winner will be chosen at random on Sunday March 2, 2008, at 12:00pm.
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Published by City Lights Books.