The Nahr we meet some way into Susan Abdulhawa’s “Against the Loveless World” is a different one we imagine to the figure who sits in an Israeli jail cuffing her own hands to the wall and staring up at the black camera built into the roof of her cell.
The Nahr who grew up in Kuwait dances at parties and has sex for money so she can fund her brother’s ambitions to be a surgeon. She has a job considered demeaning for women – selling your body – yet she is a breadwinner for her family who stays afloat thanks to her.
And so “Against the Loveless World” opens as a series of contradictions. The contradiction of growing up in a culture where women are supposed to conform to certain ideals, rebel against it but can find themselves on a path that confirms these stereotypes.
It is a world in which Um Baraq is Nahr’s pimp yet gives one of her servants the savings she has siphoned off from her husband and instructs her to return to India and buy a house without adding any man’s name to it.
How did the Nahr – known to some as Yaqoot – who grew up in the seventies in the Gulf, who lived with her mother, brother, and grandmother and once adored her father, land herself in solitary confinement, accused of being a terrorist? It is Nahr the narrator who leads us through her thoughts, feelings, and recollections which when pieced together answer this question.
This book is on the shortlist for the Palestine Book Awards 2020, please click here to read the full review on the Palestine book awards site.