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Bilal's Bread by Sulayman X

Bilal's Bread (edition 2005)

by Sulayman X

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426273,462 (3.5)6
Title:Bilal's Bread
Authors:Sulayman X
Info:Alyson Publications Inc (2005), Paperback, 208 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:Fiction, America, Coming of Age, Islam, Homosexuality, Religious Beliefs, Read in 2012, 2 in 12 Challenge

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Bilal's Bread by Nick Wilgus



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Bilal Abu has a lot to say, but he's scared to open his mouth. And who could blame him? A 16-year-old Iraqu refugee, he has to contend with his immigrant family's never-ending drama and his fanatical older brother's sexual abuse. And then there's life in his sketchy neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri, where all the non-Muslim kids think he is a terrorist. When Bilal falls in love with the son of his community's religious leader, things get better - and a whole lot worse.

This is a really intense, emotional and at times very heart-breaking read. Told from Bilal's point of view, the reader experiences everything from community rejection and scorn, sexual abuse, rape, religious fundamentalism and threats to differences in social values/belief systems, homosexuality and what love is really supposed to feel like.

Bilal, and his family, have been through the wringer: A Kurdish family that has seen the result of speaking the truth under Saddam Hussein's political regime, and has had to flee to a new life in America as refugees. We see the older family members - Bilal's Ma and his oldest brother Salim - set in their traditional Kurdish ways while Bilal, his sister Fatima and his older brother Hakim are more accepting of the American way of things. As the story progresses, we learn more details about the abuse Bilal has been subject to by his brother Salim, as well as the reason they fled Iraq. No spoiler here as a glimpse into the abuse is exposed in the first chapter of the book.

At times graphic and with some profanity expressed, this story screams for attention like no other book I have recently read. My heart and soul went out to Bilal as the confusion, the abuse and the feelings of imprisonment mount. The characters, and the situations, are highly realistic - I can visualize this very scenario playing out in an unnamed city as I type this review. Our author has managed to present a myriad of conflicting viewpoints while communicating his story - confusions regarding awakening sexualities, restraining viewpoints of community members, the dismissive nature to brush off real concerns as normal traditional practices, authoritarian family structures, fear of law enforcement and foreign cultural beliefs,.... the list just goes on and on.

Highly recommended, provided you read it with a box of kleenex and a pillow by your side: the kleenex for the scenes you uncontrollably cry through and the pillow so you can punch something soft when your anger reaction requires venting. ( )
5 vote lkernagh | Dec 2, 2012 |
I usually prefer a book with a happy ending, told in a light manner and humorous, if possible. Bilal's Bread does nothing with the 'light manner' stuff. It is a book written with a horrific detail on a gay teenage, suffering sexual abuse in the hand of his elder brother. It was disturbing, but yet I find the book is demanding me to turn the pages to find out how the book will conclude. I simply find this book difficult to put down. I read the whole book from the evening till 3.45am, just to know the fate of poor Bilal.

A well-written book on the emotion and characters.

This book is definitely one of my top favorite books in my collection. ( )
  starlight70 | Nov 11, 2011 |
The Kurdish Abu family lives in Kansas City, refugees having escaped Saddam Hussein's Iraq where their activist father was murdered by the police. However life is not easy in the US, they struggle financially, and Salim, the oldest brother and now family head rules with an over-zealous Muslim fury; Hakim, the second oldest disapproves but does little while the two much younger siblings suffer the brunt of Salim's brutality. But while Fatima is outspoken and stands up to Salim, the younger sixteen year old Bilal meekly takes all the Salim hands out, and this includes daily sexual abuse that has been going on since Bilal was nine years old.

Bilal is different from his brothers who are both big and strongly muscled for Bilal is slight and almost feminine in build, he also has delicate features; his school mates think him beautiful and cute, although he cannot see it. Although Bilal loves his family including Salim he hates the latter's attentions but feels powerles to do anything, family loyalties preclude it. That is until he falls in love with Muhammed, the son of the local Muslim community leader, a black American. With Muhammed's encouragement and help from an unlikely source it seems things might get much better, but before that happens things get very much worse.

Bilal's Bread is not a long story, at around 240 pages barley of average length. Yet reading it it seems much shorter such being so involving, but on content much longer for it packs a powerful punch. Sulayman X delves deep into Kurdish traditions and the Muslim faith, exposing the divisions between pure Muslim beliefs and the corrupted teachings of the more extreme adherents. The former promotes care and understanding, the latter intolerance and lacks mercy. He also looks at what it means to be gay and Muslim, especially for a young boy in a family that is still living as if in the old world of Iraq.

In Bilal Sulyman X has created a remarkable character, intelligent and thinking, staunchly loyal to his family - that is until reason and sense win through; a boy who over the course of the story grows from the timid suffering underdog to become a bold, courageous and outspoken young man. This is a moving and enlightening book, it deserves to be read for it can only encourage understanding. ( )
  Bembo | Sep 2, 2011 |
A raw, unsettling account of Bilal's sexual abuse at the hands of his older brother. The abuse is unrelenting, graphic, and almost homicidal in its intensity. Added to this is Bilal's realization that he may, in fact, be gay. A moving look at integrating into American culture and a gay coming-of-age account is reduced to violence in the end. ( )
  mjspear | Oct 15, 2009 |
After fleeing Iraq, the Kurdish Abu family have settled in the United States. Salim, the eldest brother, has been deeply damaged by the torture he suffered at the hands of the Iraqi police, and his psychotic rages are becoming increasingly violent. At only 16, the youngest son, Bilal, holds the family secrets close, revealing nothing. But his conflict is deepened by his own sexual awakening, and he begins to direct his rage and frustration on his own body through cutting. A powerful story of a clash of cultures and the power of the individual voice.
  QAHC_CCCL | Jul 12, 2009 |
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A young Iraqi immigrant faces the psychotic rages of his older brother, his own sexual awakening and the betrayal of his adopted country after 9/11. This story deals with the power of individuality, as well as reflecting the immigrant experience.

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