BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi, translated by Luke Leafgren [in Booklist]

The lives of two girls, the narrator and Nadia, born during the Iran-Iraq War are continuously delineated by conflict. As young children, they meet in a Baghdad air-raid shelter under siege in 1991’s Operation Desert Storm and become best friends. Their growing up is marked by years of sanctions and the second Gulf War. Despite deprivation and terror, life continues: the girls go to school; they pass exams; they experience first love; they go to college.

As their neighborhood empties, Uncle Shawkat and his prescient dog guard and maintain the abandoned homes of fleeing families until even that becomes untenable. In an act of preservation, as “memory was at risk of passing away,” the girls compose The Baghdad Clock: The Record of a Neighbourhood.

Al Rawi’s debut presents the so-called enemy imbued with childhood whimsy and human longing, their quotidian stories embellished with touches of magic realism. Rendered into English by Harvard professor Luke Leafgren, who was inspired by 9/11 to learn Arabic, this international bestseller is both condemnation against politics and war and testimony to resilient humanity.

YA/Mature Readers: Gaining insight into the lives of young people surviving relentless wars in an often-demonized nation provides important lessons in empathetic humanity for mature teens.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, April 15, 2018

Published: 2016 (Iraq), 2018 (United States)


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