Friday, December 4, 2020

Review: The Bamboo Stalk

The Bamboo Stalk The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuing my focus on the Middle East, this is my first read from Kuwait! José is the child of a mother from the Philippines who worked for a family in Kuwait when she became pregnant, and the father is the son of the family for which she is working. José's grown up being told he will go live with his father in Kuwait when he turns 18, and this is his journey between cultures, languages, and religions. He also has to navigate a situation where his Kuwaiti family doesn't want to acknowledge him because of the family's reputation, which is why he and his Mother returned to the Philippines in the first place. He looks more Filipino which also creates some challenges in Kuwait.

He is José in one country and Isa in another. His mother named him after José Rizal, and there are epigraphs from Rizal at the start of each section. José also visits a historic site connected to Rizal that had me looking more into Filipino history and landscape.

People from the Philippines work all over the world, and this is the first novel I've read that lives in this reality. There are multiple Filipino characters in Kuwait in this novel, not just in service roles like José's mother but working in the mosque, attending university, and more.

This is the first novel from Kuwaiti writer Saud Alsanousi. The prose is simple and straightforward, which probably comes from the author's experience as a journalist. The writing style makes the 500 pages a breeze, and to me it feels and reads more like YA so I have added it to that bookshelf. I have spent two years focusing my reading on Southeast Asia so it was nice to have this connector piece of a novel to this year's reading.

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