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Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Laila Lalami

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2651442,932 (3.54)39
Member:hemlokgang
Title:Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits
Authors:Laila Lalami
Info:Harvest Books (2006), Paperback, 208 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Short Stories, LT Group Read, Morocco, If All Rochester Reads...

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Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami (2005)

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From December 2005 School Library Journal:
When is fourteen kilometers the deciding factor between hope and resignation? When it is the distance between two lives, one the actual, poverty-ridden world of modern-day Morocco, and the other the successful life of imagination. The tale opens with thirty people huddled on an inflatable lifeboat meant to hold eight, attempting to illegally cross the Strait of Gibralter from Tangier to Spain. Lalami explores the lives of four of these travelers, from the circumstances that lead up to their being on that lifeboat, to the lives they make for themselves after their attempted crossing is thwarted by the Spanish border’s Guardia Civil.
Murad lives with his mother and younger siblings. Although he has a degree in English and speaks fluent Spanish, his life consists of hustling American and British tourists to various points of interest in Morocco. Halima, married with two young sons, works as a janitor to make ends meet while her husband drinks her earnings away and beats her in frustration. She sees the trip as her one chance at escape. Faten, an outspoken university student, crosses paths with an education administrator and finds herself expelled from school. Aziz, tired of seeing his wife go off to work while he cannot find employment, dreams of making a life for himself in Spain and bringing his wife over once he is established. Two of these four characters avoid the Guardia Civil; two of them do not. Each learns that ultimately, success has little to do with location, and everything to do with the smaller, day-to-day decisions. With a softness and lyricism that belie the fact that this is a first novel, we are introduced to beautifully written characters that make for a gem of a tale.
( )
  KimJD | Apr 8, 2013 |
This young Moroccan-born writer has produced a wonderful debut collection of short stories, set in modern-day Morocco, and Spain. The first half of the book depicts various characters in Morocco who dream of a better life in Spain, just across the Strait of Gibraltar, not even 14 km across the waters. The second half encapsulates the lives of those who have already managed to leave, in search of a better life on the other side, with unfortunately less than desirable results.

Lailami provided an authentic voice, detailing the issues young people currently face in the Arab/Muslim world, which I enjoyed. The stories show the lengths people will go to, to secure a better life for themselves and their families, and the challenges Arabs and North Africans face when entering European/ Western countries.

The mood throughout the slim volume is gray, and a spurt of color would have been welcome to break the cheerlessness. That said, Lalami is a great writer and the book is a quick worthwhile read. I’d definitely read more by Lalami given the chance. ( )
  akeela | Jan 20, 2011 |
First time novelist Lalami has written a beautitul story that is surprisingly detailed for a slim novel of 200 pages. It begins with the crossing from Morocco by four protagonists, an abused wife, a fanatical student, a hustler and a husband seeking decent wages by way of the Strait of Gibraltar for a new life in Spain. The pilot refuses to take them all the way where they are tipped into the ocean and forced to swim only to be met by the waiting authorities as they reach the shore. It is here that the story reverses and we meet each character in turn and what led to their decision to flee. The prospect of drowning takes on a symbolic reference as they are people trapped in oppressive lives and cultures. All too often we hear about ‘ illegal immigrants’ and the author has succeeded in giving a human face to her characters where governments always refer to them as illegal in a political construct. Sadly it is the case that for many who choose this option it remains but a dream and ultimately a dangerous pursuit. ( )
1 vote jeniwren | Jan 9, 2011 |
Though set in Morocco, not Mexico, and the body of water crossed is the Mediterranean, not the Rio Grande, the stories of the desperate immigrants told in this book are eerily similar to those of many new Texans. The writing is lovely and the stories are captivating. ( )
  debnance | Jan 29, 2010 |
Nice, sweet book about a tough theme. This novel deals with illegal immigration from Africa into the European Union. It follows four immigrants from Morocco before, during and after their attempt to reach Spain in a tiny boat. It's a heavy subject, but the stories of these four are told in a distant, not too emotional tone, and remain human, personal instead of political. As the political debate surrounding this theme is usually aggressive, emotional and distant, dealing with numbers rather than with persons, and with cultural or religious groups rather than with individuals, it is refreshing to read a book like this one.

It is not exceptionally good in a literary way, or thought provoking. Each of the characters in the book deserves more attention, more than can be given to them in the short story like style that Lalami uses. Therefore it isn't one of the books that just strike me like lightning, and that I will still remember five years from now, but still, it was a pleasant and interesting read. Worthwhile. ( )
1 vote Tinwara | Feb 20, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 015603087X, Paperback)

Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, Laila Lalami's poetic debut, begins with the illegal journey of four Moroccans across the Strait of Gibraltar. Moments away from the shores of Spain, the boat capsizes and the passengers are forced to swim for their lives, and their freedom. What follows is an exploration of the pasts that led to this passage, and the futures that emerge from this voyage.

Less a novel than a series of biographical sketches, the book seems at times like a tease; Lalami does such a beautiful job creating her characters that readers will undoubtedly be left wanting more. Still, each portrait gives us a chance to not only engage with the character, but to gain an understanding of the religious, socio-economic, and emotional circumstances that compel each person to leave Morocco. Faten, a student who dons the hijab, is forced to flee when her religious beliefs start threatening the lives of influential educators. Murad, a serious, educated young man chances the crossing in search of a better life, where he doesn't have to hustle tourists to make a living. In each scene, Lalami bring Moroccan culture to life, from the tree-lined suburbs of Rabat to the Douar Lhajja slum, "where couscous pots were used as satellite dishes."

With Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, Lalami creates a world that is both modern and traditional, hopeful and desperate, mournful and joyous. Readers can look forward to much more from this talented new voice. --Gisele Toueg

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:24 -0400)

Set in modern-day Morocco, the story of four vastly different Moroccans who illegally cross the Strait of Gibraltar in an inflatable boat headed for Spain chronicles the circumstances that drive them to risk their lives and the rewards that may or may not prove to be worth the danger.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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