Friday, May 26, 2017

Hope has Two Daughters by Monia Mazigh

Monia Mazigh is better known for her tireless efforts to gain the release of her husband, Maher Arar, who was deported to Syria where he was tortured and held without charge.  However, she is an accomplished woman in her own right - she has a Ph.D. in finance from McGill and, prior to this book, published both a memoir and another novel.

According to the author, Hope has Two Daughters, is not autobiographical but is drawn on some of her childhood memories of growing up in Tunisia.  In alternating chapters the book moves back and forth in time from 1984 where we learn of Nadia's experiences during the bread and cous cous riots at that time to 2010 where we follow her daughter Lila on her trip back to her mother's homeland to learn Arabic.  There she becomes caught up in the start of Arab Spring.

Nadia led a sheltered, lower middle class life until her friend Neila fell in love with Manour, a poor law student caught up in the activism of the time.  For organizing a protest against the government by dock workers, Manour is sentenced to 7 years in prison.  This leads Nadia to question her life and the way her parents just accept their fate, whether they like it or not.

Lila, who grew up very comfortable in Ottawa with her Tunisian mother and Canadian father, is similarly awakened when trouble breaks out in Tunisia while she is there, learning Arabic and living with Neila and Manour.

This is an interesting story of how even the most sheltered women are impacted by living under dictatorship, and how even their small contributions can help bring about change.  While that sounds somewhat hopeful, the less optimistic aspect of the book is how in some ways there was little change at all between the 1984 and 2010 riots - and the implication that the more recent riots may also have less impact than their participants wish.

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