Gripping, Philosophical and a journey of self discovery. These are some of the words that come to mind when i think about this novel. Dune Song by Anissa M Bounziane is a novel about finding peace and recapturing that feeling of losing something within you.
The novel tells the story of Jeehan Nathaar a Moroccan woman living in America. Jeehan is not alone as her sister Nazeerah aka Rizzy is also staying with her. From my understanding Rizzy is a photographer/journalist who travels across the world looking to capture the latest scoops. Jeehan on the other hand was in the middle of doing her dissertation, however due to the death of her mentor Proffesor Warren who dies of a heartattack she lost all her funding. To make matters even worse, everything in Jeehan’s life crumbles apart after she witnesses the collapse of The World Trade Centre. This is what leads to Jeehan losing part of herself as the people around her start to see her differently. Before the incident Jeehan feels that she is able to navigate the world freely without being judged. She feels confident she will not be made to feel different because of her Arabic name rather she feels proud.
However, after September 11th it’s as if that protective robe was snatched away from her and everyone now notices her for being different. There are many incidents within the novel where Jeehan is asked by someone called Jackie who works within Human Resources Department “Why do your people hate us so much” referring to her being Arabic and Muslim. This question really catches her off guard and for the first team she feels different, she feels that the term terrorist is tattooed on her forehead Personally this also hits me pretty hard, being Muslim myself i still remember being in primary school when 9/11 happened and being given looks as if i wasn’t born in Scotland.
Like Jeehan i felt like i was being looked at differently now. I was also confused that many Muslims who were now being seen as aliens and it was very uncomfortable. Jeehan describes this feeling when she says “I was no longer invisible, i was no longer free.” At any given point Jackie pushes and pushes for her to justify why what happened, happened. She describes it as feeling “as if shes a spokesperson for all Muslims”.
In addition to this, there is also another part when Ali her love interest and friend comes to see her at work and is refused entry for looking “suspicious” by a security guard. When she questions what makes him suspicious he says “Yeah, he looks Middle Eastern”. Thus, due to all of this taking place before her eyes, Jeehan makes the decision to get away from America as she is afraid things will become worse the longer she stays. She therefore decides to travel to Morocco in order to finish her dissertation which would’ve focused on “Romans in Morocco”.
When she first lands within Morocco things don’t go very well, on the plane a pen bursts in her bag ruining her documents and passport. She is therefore interrogated like never before as to why she is there, who she works for etc. Thankfully her father is able to get her out of this situation when they decide to call her parents to double check if she is who she says she is. You’d think that would be Jeehan all clear to begin her journey however she finds out Ali her love interest who was supposed to take the journey with her to Merzouga in the Moroccan desert isn’t even in Morocco even though he said he would meet her there. They had both hatched this plan together meticulously writing it on a napkin stating that both of them would travel there to work on an article about migrants crossing the border. This is something she hadn’t even told her parents who assumed she was back in Morocco for her doctorate.
Moreover, Morocco is also where Jeehan begins her therapy of overcoming her fear, it was one of the main reasons she left America in the first place. However, her parents don’t know this and assume she’s there to finish her doctorate on Romans living in Morocco. I felt the story really begins to shine in Morocco; some of the most memorable parts take place there. Jeehan also meets a wide range of characters who help her along the way such as a young boy called Ali who she meets near the airport. He is essentially the catalyst of Jeehans journey as he is the one who arranges her transport to “La Rose des Sables” in Erfud where she had made a reservation to stay. Once at the hostel she meets the family of Lachcen the manager of La Rose des Sables, his son Fareed and also his wife Fatima who was my favourite within the novel. The family treat Jeehan with the upmost kindness Lachcen and Fatima both treat her like a daughter caring for her and looking after her. It is their kindness that begins to heal Jeehan as she slowly overcomes the fear that possessed her. However, there is a pinnacle point within the novel where Jeehan gives the family the courage to overcome the troubles they themselves are in.
The novel went back and forth between her time within New York and the present in Morocco. I really enjoyed the parts when the story took place when Jeehan was in Morocco sometimes i wish it was primarly set there as that’s where many memorable things happen. The way Anissa Bouziane described Morocco was magical, i felt like i was there, as if my body had somehow been teleported to Morocco . If i closed my eyes i could probably feel the sand beneath my feet. I really loved a part within the novel when she says “Japan is calls itself the land of the rising sun and Morocco calls itself El Maghereb, the land of the setting sun. This book made me fall in love with Morocco to the extent that i kept asking one of my friends who is Moroccan about her experience in Morocco and the meaning behind some Moroccan words used within the novel. In addition to this the way, in which Anissa wrote the novel was beautiful and so powerful, i felt that it was a lesson in life and a journey of self reflection for Jeehan as she slowly overcomes her fears. It was also really eye opening how Jeehan was treated in New York after the collapse of the World Trade Centre. I felt her pain and confusion when she was being bombarded by ignorant racists for being Muslim, a lot of Muslims at that time and even now are seen as being different and i was glad Anissa highlighted this.
Overall it’s a really great novel; i hope my review has intrigued people to read this, as i said my review was probably vague but i intentionally missed out a lot because i don’t want to ruin it for the reader. Just trust me that this novel will really open your eyes. I still can’t believe this is Anissa Bouziane’s first book, by reading this you’d think she’s been writing novels for years.
Finally, i’d like to thank Sandstone press for sending me this novel. Considering I’m still new to the blogging world, I am grateful for their kindness in sending this book to me to read. I Cant wait to read more of their books and recommend everyone support them. Also remember Dune Song is out on the 20/0918. Put it in your calendar and be sure to buy it for a wonderful experience.
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