Several forthcoming titles examine complex issues relating to the Middle East through a highly personal lens. Acclaimed French cartoonist and filmmaker Riad Sattouf is perhaps best known in his native France for his weekly comic in Charlie Hebdo (he was not in the office the day of the massacre). In his graphic memoir, The Arab of the Future (Metropolitan, Aug.), the first of his works to be published in English, Sattouf, the son of a bookish French mother and a pan-Arabist Syrian father, recounts his nomadic childhood, during which he moved from France to Gaddafi’s Libya to Assad’s Syria.
As a girl, Rahimeh Andalibian and her wealthy family were forced to flee Iran in the wake of the 1979 revolution. The Rose Hotel: A Memoir of Secrets, Loss, and Love from Iran to America (National Geographic, May) tells of the traumas they endured in their native country and adopted home; in a starred review, PW calls Andalibian’s memoir “an insightful, passionate immigrant’s story with cross-cultural resonance.” Comedian Maz Jobrani, another author who was displaced as a child by the 1979 revolution, takes a more lighthearted approach in I’m Not a Terrorist but I’ve Played One on TV (Simon & Schuster, Feb.). He writes of trying to build his career in a post–9/11 Hollywood that consistently typecast him as the bomb-toting villain—his mother wondering all the while why he couldn’t have been a doctor.
A trio of books being released this spring and summer—two by U.S. diplomats and one by an Iraqi trial lawyer—provides glimpses into the region’s corridors of power. In Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide (Random, Jun.), Michael B. Oren, author of the well-received Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Oxford Univ., 2002), recalls the four years (2009–2013) he spent as U.S. ambassador to Israel. Similarly, Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia After 9/11 (Univ. of Nebraska/Potomac, July) is Robert W. Jordan’s account of his two years (2001–2003) serving as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia (the book was written with Steve Fiffer). And Baghdad Lawyer: Fighting for Justice in Saddam’s Iraq (Ankerwycke, Jun.), by Sabah Aris, examines the Iraqi criminal justice system as Aris experienced it over the course of his 50-year career.
Bookseller David Enyeart at Common Good Books in St. Paul, Minn., speculates that memoirs like these may resonate with readers because they provide “context and connection” through personal stories against a historical backdrop. “Particularly in times of great uncertainty,” he explains, “memoirs help us to see deeper into the big issues of the day.”
If the Oceans Were Ink: An Unlikely Friendship and a Journey to the Heart of the Quran (Holt, Apr.), by Carla Power, shows how a personal connection can not only foster understanding in the reader, but also help bridge the gap between West and East. The former Newsweek foreign correspondent, who grew up in the Midwest and the Middle East, details the year she spent reading and debating Islam’s religious texts with her longtime friend Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi. PW’s review says the book offers an “enlightening route into a topic fraught with misunderstanding.”