“Malu Halasa’s brilliant and gripping novel gave me a better sense of the vivid complexity of contemporary life in the Middle East than anything else I’ve read. Written at the intersection of all the big contemporary conversations – about kinship, politics, ethnicity, religion, gender and morality – it nonetheless remains intimate and engaging.”
— Brian Eno
Mother of All Pigs unveils contemporary life in the Middle East, as one family confronts its secrets over the course of a weekend’s festivities. Told from alternating points of view, Halasa’s debut novel is at times witty and energetic, compassionate and awe-inspiring, and over all, unputdownable.
“Mother of All Pigs is the book that western readers have been waiting for: a novel about ordinary people in the Middle East told with deep, sympathetic, understanding of the region. Halasa tells the stories of Middle Eastern women and men with rare familiarity. An enjoyable book about a fascinating set of characters, this is essential reading for anyone who wants to know more about the Middle East.”
Maziar Bahari, author of And Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity and Survival (now the feature film Rosewater)
The Sabas family lives in a small Jordanian town that for centuries has been descended upon by all manner of invaders, and now Evangelical tourists. The community relies on bric-a-brac smuggled in during the throes of war, the quality of which depends entirely on who’s fighting.
This time the action is in Syria, and the threat of ISIS lies just across the border. Hussein Sabas is the Levant’s only pig butcher, selling all manner of chops, sausages, and hams, much to the chagrin of his observant neighbors.
His home is ruled by women: Mother Fadhma, his wife, Laila, sister Samira, and now, niece Muna, who is visiting from America for the first time. Each with their own secrets and challenges, regrets and desires, from past loves to illegal political activity.
Enchanting and fearless, Halasa's prose intertwines the lives of three generations of women as they navigate stifling cultural practices and confront the political realities of life in the Middle East.
“Malu Halasa’s richly woven tale of family duty and private love, of loss and repossession, is quietly subversive. Lamentations follow the birth of girls, she tells us, and helps us to understand the psychological hardships of womanhood in modern Arab culture. Halasa’s novel reveals in moving and warmly human ways the effects of large events and complex histories on everyday life.”
— Darryl Pinckney, author of the novels, High Cotton and Black Deutschland, and two works of nonfiction, Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy and Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature
“Malu Halasa has a mind like an octopus. She reaches in all directions and in Mother of All Pigs, her first novel, she pulls together more characters and plotlines than most writers would dream of. You could say Mother of All Pigs is a novel about defiance, or innovation, or emigration, or family. You could say it’s about Christianity or Islam or the Syrian civil war. You could say it’s about feminism. You could say it’s about a pig. No matter what, you’d be right. It’s an ambitious novel, and a fun one. Halasa’s got a great sense of humor to go with her wide-ranging interests and expertise, and the combination makes Mother of All Pigs a delight to read.”
— Lily Meyer, Politics & Prose
“Malu Halasa's book will challenge western readers' preconceived notions about life in the mixed Christian Muslim towns in Jordan. Written with wit and anthropological precision Malu's brilliantly conceived book manages to portray the face of the modern Middle East and elucidate the complexity of the transformations taking place there.”
— Raja Shehadeh, author of Palestinian Walks, Forays into a Vanishing Landscape
“Halasa's prose is revelatory. Wholly authentic and profoundly insightful, Mother of all Pigs is a captivating look at the lives of a Middle Eastern family.”
— Foreword Reviews, Starred Review
“Malu Halasa is one of the most original writers and editors covering the Middle East ... witty, sumptuous and genuinely revelatory.”
— The New Statesman
“Halasa juggles multiple narrative threads in her lively debut... the story wins high marks for its affectionate and raucous portrayal of one Jordanian family in the midst of social and political upheaval.”
— Poornima Apte, Booklist
“Halasa’s sharp critiques and deadpan humor make for a captivating exploration of the intricacies of the modern Middle East.”
— Publishers Weekly
"Mother of All Pigs is a striking novel, and an unflinching yet loving depiction of the Middle East. It dissolves stereotypes while offering a satisfying story of a region, a country and one family."
— Bidisha, the Times Literary Supplement
About Malu Halasa
Malu Halasa is a Jordanian Filipina American writer and editor based in London. Born in Oklahoma, she was raised in Ohio and is a graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University. Her books include: Syria Speaks – Art and Culture from the Frontline (2014); Transit Tehran: Young Iran and Its Inspirations (2009); The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie: Intimacy and Design (2008); Kaveh Golestan: Recording the Truth in Iran (2007); Transit Beirut: New Writing and Images (2004) and Creating Spaces of Freedom: Culture in Defiance (2002). Mother of All Pigs is her first novel.