Friday, January 25, 2013

#BookReview: Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits - Laila Lalami #BP2W (Morocco)

Fourteen kilometers separate Morocco from Spain.  Those 14 kilometers can be the difference between living and merely existing.  Though it seems like a minor distance, taking no more than thirty minutes to cross, the two countries are worlds apart. The members of the group that set off for Spain in the six meter inflatable have a variety of reasons for leaving Morocco, but their ultimate goal is to create a better life for themselves.

Having failed her college exams for a second time, an increasingly religious Faten leaves Morocco after narrowly escaping arrest.  With a bachelor's in English Literature, Murad thought he'd easily find a job, but six years after graduation, he's only had one interview and, instead, spends his days trying to convince tourists to let him act as their tour guide.  Aziz leaves behind his wife and mother because he even though has a certificate in repairs, he can't find a job.  Beaten daily by her alcoholic husband who can't hold a job, Halima would gladly pay him for a divorce if it didn't mean leaving her children behind.

Lalami divides the book into before and after.  By doing so, you're not sure who survived the trip.  Even in knowing who survived, you aren't sure if they made it to Spain without incident or if they were deported back to Morocco.  I loved her writing style and characters.  Each one, though very different from another, was equally interesting and likable.  I found myself hoping all of them made to Spain.

Prior to reading this, I never really gave much thought to Morocco and didn't realize it was so close to Spain.  With its large Arabic population and Islamic influence, one can easily forget that it sits on the continent of Africa.







197pp
Published: January 2005

Morocco has capitalized on its proximity to Europe and relatively low labor costs to build a diverse, open, market-oriented economy. In 2006 Morocco entered into a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with the United States; it remains the only African country to have one. In 2008 Morocco entered into an Advanced Status agreement with the European Union. Despite Morocco's economic progress, the country suffers from high unemployment and poverty. In 2011, high food and fuel prices strained the government's budget and widened the country's current account deficit. Key economic challenges for Morocco include fighting corruption, reducing government spending, reforming the education system and judiciary, addressing socioeconomic disparities, and building more diverse, higher value-added industries. - CIA World Fact Book

Location: Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria & Western Sahara
Size: 446,550 sq km; slightly larger than California
Population: 32,309,239
Ethnic groups: Arab-Berber 99%, other 1%
Languages: Arabic (official), Berber languages (Tamazight (official), Tachelhit, Tarifit), French (often the language of business, government, and diplomacy)


Theme: Hymne Cherifien (Hymn of the Sharif)
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