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

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: The Less People Know About Us

Updated 21 October 2019

What We Are Reading Today: The Less People Know About Us

Author: Axton Betz-Hamilton

In this true crime memoir, an award-winning identity theft expert tells the shocking story of the duplicity and betrayal that inspired her career and nearly destroyed her family.
The Less People Know About Us is Axton Betz-Hamilton’s attempt to untangle an intricate web of lies, and to understand why and how a loved one could have inflicted such pain.
Axton “presents a candid, shocking, and redemptive story and reveals her courageous effort to grapple with someone close that broke the unwritten rules of love, protection, and family,” said a review in goodreads.com.
Melanie Thernstrom said in a review for The New York Times that the book “is intimate and engrossing but can also have a claustrophobic, cluttered feel in its thicket of details. As many memoirs do, it includes experiences that were personally formative but are extraneous to the narrative.”
The Less People Know About Us was written in collaboration with Ashley Stimpson, a talented freelance journalist and professional ghostwriter who describes herself as a “story surrogate,” said the review.