The Sand Child, Tahar Ben Jeloun, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc, 1987, 165 pp
Although something is always lost in translation, I love reading novels by authors from other countries. Tahar Ben Jeloun is Moroccan and writes in French. His style of storytelling is curvy, almost circular, with repeating motifs and multiple tellers, making it a challenging proposition for all of us in the reading group who chose it.
But it was provocative, poetic writing about a female child whose father decided to claim was a boy. Desperate for a male heir after his wife had presented him with seven daughters, without a single thought about the effects it might have on this child, he just faked it. Those effects were myriad and devastating.
The book encompasses several levels or themes: gender, post-colonial conditions in Morocco, Islamic mores, and storytelling itself.
As I read, I could feel the grit of the sand, smell the dung and spices of the market place, and reel in the confusion of this unfortunate female as she grows up and grapples with her identity. It was like taking a trip to a foreign land where nothing at all feels American.