Author(s): Abdellah Taia
An autobiographical novel by turn naive and cunning, funny and moving, this most recent work by Moroccan expatriate Abdellah Taia is a major addition to the new French literature emerging from the North African Arabic diaspora. Salvation Army is a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of Taia's life with complete disclosure--from a childhood bound by family order and latent (homo)sexual tensions in the poor city of Sale, through an adolescence in Tangier charged by the young writer's attraction to his eldest brother, to a disappointing arrival in the Western world to study in Geneva in adulthood. In so doing, Salvation Army manages to burn through the author's first-person singularity to embody the complex melange of fear and desire projected by Arabs on Western culture. Recently hailed by his native country's press as "the first Moroccan to have the courage to publicly assert his difference," Taia, through his calmly transgressive work, has "outed" himself as "the only gay man" in a country whose theocratic law still declares homosexuality a crime. The persistence of prejudices on all sides of the Mediterranean and Atlantic makes the translation of Taia's work both a literary and political event. The arrival of Salvation Army (published in French in 2006) in English will be welcomed by an American audience already familiar with a growing cadre of talented Arab writers working in French (including Muhammad Dib, Assia Djebar, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Abdelkebir Khatibi, and Katib Yasin).
"Here in the United States, it's easy to become jaded about the coming out narrative. It can feel like a story we've read one time too many, one that has somehow become commodified, fraught with predictability. But every once in a while a novel comes along that shatters our jaded state and renews our faith in the queer coming of age genre. Abdellah Taia's Salvation Army is one such book." Alistair McCartney Lambda Report "In a simple and straightforward language, the author leads the reader through a journey of uncertainty and self-discovery, beyond the nuanced resonance of words and emotions. Writing, which he discovers at an early age, involves for him a courageous and unprecedented act of exposing his country's taboos and prohibitions." Mustapha Hamil Tingus Magazine "Just when you thought you'd read every coming out story imaginable, a book as fresh and original as this one enlivens the genre." Noel Alumit Frontiers in LA "The novel is richly layered yet impressively lean, and as easily enjoyed by the pool as at a university library." Glen Helfand Bay Area Reporter "This straightforward story about self-discovery is a reminder that coming-of-age tales still need to be told." Richard Labonte
Abdellah Taia (b. 1973) is the first openly gay autobiographical writer published in Morocco. Though Moroccan, he lives in Paris. He is the author of Mon Maroc and Le rouge du tarbouche, both translated into Dutch and Spanish, and Salvation Army (published by Semiotext(e) in English in 2009). He also appeared in Remi Lange's 2004 film Tarik el Hob (released in English as The Road to Love).