Author Laila Lalami is a phenomenal storyteller in ‘The Other Americans’

“The Other Americans” is a novel in which a Moroccan-American family attempts to move forward with life when tragedy strikes and harmful secrets begin to unravel. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 October 2020

Author Laila Lalami is a phenomenal storyteller in ‘The Other Americans’

CHICAGO: Floating along on the Santa Ana winds into the Mojave Desert is award-winning author Laila Lalami’s “The Other Americans,” a novel in which a Moroccan-American family attempts to move forward with life when tragedy strikes and harmful secrets begin to unravel. Driss Guerraoui, an American originally from Casablanca, Morocco, is killed in a hit-and-run one night after locking up his diner. His wife, Maryam, and daughters, Salma and Nora, are left to deal with his affairs after his death, each coping with the event and its aftermath in their own way. 

When we meet the Guerraouis, they’ve already achieved their American Dream. After moving from Morocco to California, setting up a successful diner and standing on their own feet, the family should be living without worry, but that isn’t the case. It turns out that the American Dream is not the end of the road, that their surname is too difficult to pronounce, Nora’s Moroccan eggplant lunch doesn’t look right to her kindergarten classmates and their presence in the country is problematic to certain people. After September 11, their first business, Aladdin’s Donuts, is burned to the ground. Despite the trouble, Driss and Maryam continue to work hard and their children continue to propel themselves forward in pursuit of a bright future, but the road isn’t easy. 

Moving between characters, from Nora, his youngest daughter, to Maryam, his widow, the police officer who went to school with the victim’s daughter, the detective working the case and the undocumented witness to the death, first-person narratives account for the connection between the lives that are caught up in the tragedy. From snippets of their lives in Casablanca to their future in California, readers get a sense of the Guerraouis. They had left Morocco to escape trouble and found it in California anyway. 

Lalami is a phenomenal storyteller, her characters and prose paced and insightful as she delves into complex yet ordinary characters who come from different backgrounds. She deals with prejudice and Islamophobia, the treatment of veterans and being forced to grow up too fast. Her novel deals with the struggles of being undocumented and financial constraints. And she does not shy away from difficult situations, laying bare that life is complicated but must go on.

Nicole Scherzinger wows in Georges Chakra design

Updated 24 November 2020

Nicole Scherzinger wows in Georges Chakra design

DUBAI: Singer and television show host Nicole Scherzinger was spotted wearing a design from our neck of the woods this week to promote the hit show “The Masked Singer.”

The “Don’t Cha” hitmaker, who serves as a judge on the show alongside singer Robin Thicke, comedian Ken Jeong and model Jenna McCarthy, wowed viewers with a white, statement-making Georges Chakra pant suit from the Lebanese designer’s Spring 2019 couture collection.

The look boasted a plunging blazer with metallic details on the shoulders and sleeves and a cascading train. She paired the top with coordinating white, flared trousers. Scherzinger  elevated the look with a dusting of metallic, eye-popping powder across her lids to compliment her ensemble.

Chakra is one of Lebanon’s top couture designers. His gowns have graced runways in Paris and red carpets in Hollywood, while the entertainment industry’s top talent like Gabrielle Union, Jennifer Lopez and Letitia Wright regularly don his creations.  His designs have even been featured in films and television shows like “Gossip Girl” – Blake Lively’s character Serena van der Woodsen tied the knot in a dramatic strapless tulle gown designed Chakra in the show’s series finale. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Aug.4 Beirut explosion, Chakra didn’t unveil his Fall 2021 couture collection during the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode’s official Haute Couture week this year, but presented it in a digital format instead.

Much like his previous collections, the Fall 2021 couture offering was an amalgamation of expert tailoring, volume, ruffles, traces of lamé and rich fabrics such as lace, velour de soie, silk organza and gazar.

Meanwhile, Scherzinger isn’t the only A-lister to champion the Lebanese couturier in recent weeks. 

Model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen was recently spotted wearing an all-white ensemble at a Pennsylvania rally for president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris’ election campaign where her husband John Legend was performing. 

The look featured a tailored Chloe blazer worn over a bodysuit paired with a tulle tiered skirt from Chakra’s Fall 2020 couture collection. 

The designer’s creations also found a fan in British actress Kate Beckinsale, who recently attended this year’s Monte Carlo Gala for Planetary Health in Monaco wearing a white, asymmetric gown, which was plucked from the designer’s Fall 2019 couture collection.