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: Ever the Leader

Updated 12 December 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Ever the Leader

Author: William G. Bowen

Ever the Leader gathers together selected speeches and writings from one of the great scholars and commentators of higher education. William G. Bowen’s career at Princeton University — from economics professor to provost to a 16-year tenure as president — was marked by extraordinary accomplishments during times of great change, both at the university and in the country. But it was in Bowen’s second act, as president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and founding chairman of ITHAKA, that he took the lessons he learned as a highly productive leader of one of the nation’s most esteemed universities and applied them to a broader set of problems in higher education. This volume of work from Bowen’s later career captures this expansion of his thought and influence.
Comprising remarks and articles on the subjects of university values, educational opportunity, college sports, technology, and colleagues and peers in higher education leadership, Ever the Leader is more than just a concis e distillation of Bowen’s research and thinking on some of the most urgent issues of the day — it is a portrait of leadership in action. The selected papers, talks, and articles exemplify Bowen’s commitment and singular ability to communicate strong, persuasive arguments for change.
and to motivate others to engage with the truly hard questions facing higher education leaders.