cover image Forbidden Vision

Forbidden Vision

Nina Bouraoui / Author, Melissa Marcus / Translator Station Hi

The imaginative voice of a young, constricted Muslim woman living in Algeria--made clear and intelligible in an excellent translation--makes this debut novel a psychological page-turner. Although the narrator occasionally overheats, her memories and observations collude very effectively to evoke a cloistered life. Set in the early 1970s, the novel follows the young narrator and her older sister Zohr who, because ``women who went out into the streets were sluts,'' are basically confined to the house. Zohr wraps her chest in bandages to try to subdue her growing breasts, while the narrator passes time sitting at her window and rearranging the furniture in her room. Their father is a terror who beats the narrator senseless the first time she menstruates, their mother is an ineffectual slave degraded by her inability to produce a son. The mother is finally driven to attempt a ritual that includes squatting over smoke from a special burning mixture, to no effect. Like many blunt tales of oppression, this isn't so much a narrative as an assembly of characters and events held together by the author's uncanny ability to express the anxiety and boredom of a girl facing womanhood from the confines of her room and her culture. (Oct.)