Mother of All Pigs: A Selected Bibliography
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. The Sabas family lives in a small Jordanian town that for centuries has been descended upon by all manner of invader, the latest a scourge of disconcerting Evangelical tourists. The border town relies on a blackmarket trade of clothes, trinkets , and appliances — the quality of which depends entirely on who’s fighting — but the conflict in nearby Syria has the place even more on edge than usual. Meanwhile, the Sabas home is ruled by women — Mother Fadhma, Laila, Samira, and now, Muna, a niece visiting from America for the first time — and it is brimming with regrets and desires. Clandestine pasts in love, politics, even espionage, threaten the delicate balance of order in the household, as generations clash. The family’s ostensible patriarch — Laila’s husband Hussein — enjoys no such secrets, not in his family or in town, where Hussein is known as the Levant’s only pig butcher, dealing in chops, sausages, and hams, much to the chagrin of his observant neighbors. When a long-lost soldier from Hussein's military past arrives, the Sabas clan must decide whether to protect or expose him, bringing long-simmering rivalries and injustices to the surface. Enchanting and fearless, Halasa's prose intertwines the lives of three generations of women as they navigate the often stifling, sometimes absurd realities of everyday life in the Middle East. Malu Halasa will discuss Mother of All Pigs on Friday 11/3, 6pm at 57th Street Books.
Opening the Gates: Anthology of Arab Feminist Writing, by Margot Badran and miriam cooke, eds. - In their own words: With its over sixty women contributors from across the Middle East, this go-to collection of Arab feminism writing, from the late 1800s to the early 2000s, heavily influenced my novel Mother of All Pigs.
The Veil and the Male Elite, by Fatima Mernissi - Religious critique: Moroccan feminist Fatima Mernissi (1940-2015) searched for early women’s voices and experiences to provide a hard-hitting feminist critique of early Islam and the veil.
The History of al-Tabari Vol. 7: The Foundation of the Community: Muhammad at al-Madina A.D. 622-626/Hijra-4 A.H., by W. Montgomery Watt, translated by M.V. MacDonald - Check the source: In this celebrated history of the early decades of Islam, tenth century religious scholar al-Tabari included eye-witness accounts of Hind Bint Utbah, a forthright woman caught in the transition between the pagan religions of old and the then coming Muslim conquest; riveting reading from the seventh century.
Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World, by Shereen El Feki - Sexual survey: Egyptian British journalist and immunologist ShereenEl Feki brought sex toys to Egyptian housewives and interviewed sex workers on the streets of Morocco to reveal women’s sexual relationships in deeply patriarchal societies – a modern Arab version of Meyhew’s London Labour and London Poor.
Headscarves and Hymens, by Mona Eltahawy - Engaged activism: Barbed gender critique underpins journalist Mona Eltahawy’s compelling memoir about growing up in Egypt and her observations on being Muslim and a woman.
Tiger and Clay: Syrian Fragments, by Rana Abdulfattah - Finding oneself against the odds: Rana Abdulfattah moves between poetry and intimate memoir, as an observant Syrian refugee adrift in Turkey forging a new life for herself and recovering from a broken heart.
Then They Came for Me: A Story of Injustice and Survival in Iran’s Most Notorious Prison, by Maziar Bahari - Got out alive: former Newsweek journalist in Tehran and documentary filmmaker Maziar Bahari’s account of his ordeal covers rare ground for the Middle East – family memoir – where too often regional violence obscures the ordinary lives of people there.
Jeddah Childhood circa 1994, by Omar Kholeif - Fast fiction, from the heart to the groin: this is one of the first gay memoirs about growing up in Saudi Arabia before the new wave of queer Arab writing just now emerging from the region.
Keep Your Eye on the Wall, by Olivia Snaije & Mitch Albert, eds. - A disturbing feast: With lavish visual essays by seven photographers and texts by four writers, including myself, this surprising concertina photo book is a reminder of both hardcore occupation and black humor in Palestine.
Rock in a Hard Place: Music and Mayhem in the Middle East, by Orlando Crowcroft - End with a song: a lively in-depth critique of hip hop and metal in the Middle East by a death metal fan Orlando Crowcroft who found out that 1,700 metal bands play secretly in the Islamic republic of Iran.
About Malu Halasa: Malu Halasa is 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, her first novel, will be published by Unnamed Press, Los Angeles.