Saleem Haddad

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Guapa A debut novel that tells the story of Rasa a young gay man coming of age in the Middle East Set over the course of twenty four hours Guapa follows Rasa a gay man living in an unnamed Arab country

  • Title: Guapa
  • Author: Saleem Haddad
  • ISBN: 9781590517697
  • Page: 361
  • Format: Paperback
  • A debut novel that tells the story of Rasa, a young gay man coming of age in the Middle East Set over the course of twenty four hours, Guapa follows Rasa, a gay man living in an unnamed Arab country, as he tries to carve out a life for himself in the midst of political and social upheaval Rasa spends his days translating for Western journalists and pining for the nights wA debut novel that tells the story of Rasa, a young gay man coming of age in the Middle East Set over the course of twenty four hours, Guapa follows Rasa, a gay man living in an unnamed Arab country, as he tries to carve out a life for himself in the midst of political and social upheaval Rasa spends his days translating for Western journalists and pining for the nights when he can sneak his lover, Taymour, into his room One night Rasa s grandmother the woman who raised him catches them in bed together The following day Rasa is consumed by the search for his best friend Maj, a fiery activist and drag queen star of the underground bar, Guapa, who has been arrested by the police Ashamed to go home and face his grandmother, and reeling from the potential loss of the three most important people in his life, Rasa roams the city s slums and prisons, the lavish weddings of the country s elite, and the bars where outcasts and intellectuals drink to a long lost revolution Each new encounter leads him closer to confronting his own identity, as he revisits his childhood and probes the secrets that haunt his family As Rasa confronts the simultaneous collapse of political hope and his closest personal relationships, he is forced to discover the roots of his alienation and try to re emerge into a society that may never accept him.

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      Posted by:Saleem Haddad
      Published :2019-01-26T04:27:15+00:00

    One thought on “Guapa

    1. Roxane on said:

      Guapa is well worth reading. There is an exuberance and ragged energy to the prose I admired. Rasa is a young gay man in an "unnamed Arab country" who is grappling with a complicated relationship, his grandmother, living a closeted life, and his place in the political turmoil his country is facing. There are many powerful observations throughout but at times, the novel was just so didactic, so, "let me teach you," and storytelling fell to the wayside. The plot also just sort of falls apart towar [...]

    2. Naz (Read Diverse Books) on said:

      Review can also be found in my blog: wp/p7a9pe-jhGuapa is the kind of book I am always open to reading and also the kind of book I root for to succeed. When I hear about a new novel that illuminates the experiences of nonwhite, non-western LGBT people, I want to spread the word. So when I got a chance to read a copy of Guapa before release, I was thrilled!The narrative follows Rasa, a young gay man who lives in an unnamed Arab country steeped in political turmoil. He returns from America with a [...]

    3. Snotchocheez on said:

      3.5 starsI was really rooting for Saleem Haddad's novelGuapa to deliver sometbing remarkable, and, for the most part, I wasn't disappointed. Though I'm not gay, or Arab, I had a feeling this story of a gay man in his late twenties dealing with the shame (or Quranic eib) attendant with his sexual urges, in an unnamed (but almost certainly an unstable post-'Arab Spring' Muslim-majority) nation was at times quite gripping. Half the story was told in flashback with our sexually-repressed protagonist [...]

    4. Penny Schmuecker on said:

      As a Western reader, I feel there is much about life in the Middle East that is still shrouded in mystery. Recently books like Excellent Daughters by Katherine Zoepf and The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg have allowed me a look at the lives of women in these countries but little has been written about the lives of gay men and women living in the Middle East. Guapa by Saleem Haddad is a thought-provoking novel told from the viewpoint of Rasa, a gay man living in an unnamed Middle Ea [...]

    5. Jesse on said:

      Very curious after reading a thoughtful interview with Haddad over at Muftah:"I filled the book with references to various Arabic and English novels, echoing and alluding to seminal works that shaped my own identity. So in my novel you’ll find echoes to writers that I admired, works that I grew up reading and trying to fit myself into: Colm Toibin’s ‘Story of the Night’, James Baldwin’s ‘Giovanni’s Room’, Andre Aciman’s ‘Call Me By Your Name’, Gore Vidal’s ‘City and the [...]

    6. Atiaf Alwazir on said:

      Few writers can describe stories of marginalization in the Middle East while simultaneously breaking away from stereotypes. Saleem has done that beautifully in his novel.

    7. Tim on said:

      I saw a quote a few days ago: “The Arab world is as complex and as diverse and messed up and great as anywhere else in the world” – from Hamed Sinno, singer for a well-known Arab band called Mashrou Leila. He said this to CNN as he’s been asked to comment a lot recently given that he’s a fairly “visible” gay Arab born to a Muslim family. The quote was telling as it was a follow up to his observation that “white singers” are never asked to explain their culture, but Arabs are us [...]

    8. Seth on said:

      A really authentic read that I couldn't recommend more. Rasa is a deeply dimensional character and the novel explores many subjects from his very unique perspective. I've been looking for a novel with a gay male protagonist that feels genuine; this is not a dramatic flair-up of carefully hand-picked events and chance meetings. This feels real. Everyone is given a set of semi-random choices in life; everyone makes those choices and finds themselves on a path that was undeniably self-directed. Whe [...]

    9. Tim on said:

      Guapa is a great book. Above all else it is a story of marginalisation, of how in all its forms marginalisation is one shared malaise. And yet the author doesn't shy away from unpicking how those suffering one or more kinds of oppression, instead of forging common bonds, all too often themselves play a part in the marginalisation of others. This is one of several tragic layers in a story often told with bitter wit, about a man, Rassa, and the society in which he lives, both of whom seem on the b [...]

    10. Christine on said:

      I loved this book and would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in reading about cultural differences. And anyone who has loved. I particularly enjoyed this reading as a Westerner; it reminded me that other parts of the world are vastly different from my normal, everyday life and experiences.

    11. Nick Seeley on said:

      An extraordinary coming-of-age novel. "Guapa" encompasses a day in the life of Rasa, a young gay man in an unnamed Middle Eastern country during the turbulence of the Arab Spring. His path winds from his family's upper-middle-class home, where his family is on the verge of discovering his secret relationship with another young man, to the city's poverty-stricken suburbs, where the embers of revolution are catching fire, to the police stations where regime thugs brutalize and intimidate dissident [...]

    12. J.P. on said:

      Wonderful. A slightly messy, overly sentimental and sometimes pedantic first novel, that is also passionate and moving. What the Western gay novel used to be before we lossed something in both wide ranging acceptance and quite a bit of assimilation.

    13. Sofia on said:

      4.5 starsHaddad gives us a tense twenty four hours with Rasa. And for us to get the Rasa we are seeing now he also gives us Rasa in the past so that we can understand how present Rasa came to be. So we see him grow up, loose his parents, go to America, come back, revolt, fall in love, make good and bad decisions, (view spoiler)[(His decision to introduce Leila to Taymour and be a party of that marriage was not a good one in my opinion. I understand his desperation in doing it but I also see that [...]

    14. Curtis on said:

      Rasa's life has changed dramatically overnight. Last night, his grandmother caught him in bed with his lover, Taymour. Tonight, Taymour is getting married to a woman. And one of his best friends, Maj, is missing, likely arrested sometime during the night. None of these are things he can be open about. And even if he could, his grandmother isn't speaking to him, and she's the only family he has. Beyond his personal struggles, the political situation in his country is getting worse. As a translato [...]

    15. Neil on said:

      This is a really impressive novel. I can't think of the last book that I've read that's so full of turmoil--romantic, interpersonal, familial, and political. Rasa's struggle, which seems to grow in magnitude as the reader learns more about him, is not finished by the end of this book, but the novel has gotten across the complexity and the sheer thorniness of the many challenges that he faces. Rasa is a man who has had it with the pretense that society requires of us--whether around being an Arab [...]

    16. Rambox on said:

      5 stars are not enough. 100 stars. Buried in this book there is an accusation that this story does not belong to me. And yet the story knows, and I'm pretty sure that the author also knows, that in this story he has seen into my soul. And in a world where this story is nowhere to be heard, I am profoundly grateful for Guapa and for Saleem Haddad. Easily the most important book I have read all year.

    17. Ben on said:

      I had high hopes for this book, and it didn't disappoint. Really, really good.

    18. Jerry on said:

      This was a captivating book and yet at times I was depressed enough to stop listening. Ultimately I finished and was glad for it. Saleem takes you to an amalgam county, vaguely Iraq/Syria/Egypt etc And you understand what it is like to be gay and out to a few friends and bi and not out to anyonecluding yourself. Rasa is the partially "out" guy and the man he loves, Taymore, is barely able to be with Rasa due to his parents, social class and the force of society to marry and have children. The au [...]

    19. Mathis Bailey on said:

      A gay Arab guyng in the Middle Eastht up in a love triangleat alone piqued my interest.This was a melancholy read. It took me a month to finish it given the family tragedies, homophobic discrimination and police harassments. I guess I didn't expect the tone to be so dreary and meditative. The main character reflects on his life a lot. But what kept me soldiering on was the smooth writing style. It felt warmly conversational and the detailing was spot on. However the plot suffered a bit. The flas [...]

    20. Andrew on said:

      I'm thinking about this book and my frustrating experience reading it, and it's difficult for me to shape a review for it. I guess I'll just plunge forward.Strengths:Saleem Haddad is very skilled in painting a scene's setting. My brain had no trouble filling in the details as Haddad provided everything necessary while never getting boring in his descriptions. In slums, checkpoints, fancy hotels, apartments, dorm rooms, campuses, diners, barsI never once had trouble, and I have extreme respect fo [...]

    21. Daniel Pereira on said:

      I don't write reviews lately. When I finish a book, life is so fast-paced that I don't find the time to think deeply about it and try to express my feelings toward it. But this one was different. After reading a bunch of Stephen King books in a row, I saw this one on a Buzzfeed Newsletters about books to read in 2016. I picked it up and started reading it.And I was really touched by it. As a person who knows almost nothing about the middle eastern crisis and the Arabic world in general, this boo [...]

    22. Cameron Sant on said:

      Cameron's lightning if-I-write-a-full-review-my-phone-will-delete-it-anyway haiku review:Not just a closetnovel. Intersectional,lovely, important.

    23. Yanira on said:

      I'm not sure where to start with this book, because it's a book that stays with you for a long time. It's a book about politics, about love, and that's so hard to do in one novel. Haddad is a master storyteller. My heart broke in every page into million pieces. I wanted a happy ending (whatever that means). I rooted for Rasa. I wanted happiness for him. But, I think in the end, he got something better. I cannot wait to read another book by this author. This is an important book. This is not a po [...]

    24. Jamie Canaves on said:

      Great read about a young man in the Middle East who thinks he was seen the previous night with his lover. It unfolds under a 24 hour timeline while set amongst political unrest. While for me the 24 hour timeline never really had much urgency or speed to it I liked the window it provided me into Rasa's every day. And while set over the course of a day the character remembers and talks about college in America and his childhood which gives you a great view into his life--especially an Arab studyin [...]

    25. Aidan Owen on said:

      This book is the kind that gets better and better as it goes on. I was worried at first that the story would be a bit cliche: two closeted gay men in a relationship, one of whom wants to be more open, the other of whom wants to blend into society. But the way that Haddad weaves in the cultural alienation of a gay man in an Arab country with the alienation of an Arab in America with the human alienation of a person whose parents have died or abandoned him with the disillusionment of dying dreams [...]

    26. Tareq Baconi on said:

      Guapa is a beautifully written book. The relationships described in the novel, although set in a 24-hour period, span a lifetime, and leave readers deeply invested in the fate of the characters. This is one of the few books of its kind to emerge from the Middle East, opening the space for a much needed conversation on gender, sexuality, and politics in the Arab world.

    27. Scott Huscher on said:

      Guapa tells a great story. The writing is easy to read and hooks you in, although it does gets a bit iffy in parts toward the end. But overall it's a fascinating and important novel about what it's like to be gay in the Middle East.

    28. Sarah on said:

      I still think about things in this novel 10 days later - something that hasn't happened to me in a while. I recognized so many things in it that called out to me: Rasa's relationship with his Teta- their morning rituals, the silence around his father's fate, the living in a type of mausoleum but also the pain he felt around his mother and the suffocating silence. I'm not Arab but I grew up in a British household and felt many of those same emotions choking inside of me which I think is what make [...]

    29. Elora K on said:

      But in the midst of this decaying, burning city, there are pockets of hope. It can be found in the tiny dark rooms in underground bars, where women with short hair cheer on men in dresses. It can be felt in the abandoned cinemas where anonymous strangers fall in love if only for a few moments, and in the living rooms where families crowd around, drinking sweet black tea and Skyping their homesick relatives so that together they can watch the long, rambling talk shows that go on all night. Despit [...]

    30. Fiona Pearse on said:

      Guapa is a great read, from a strong plot, to real characters, to a fastinating look at the Arab Spring from the point of view of Rasa, who has qualms about fighting for a side that, if won, would still cast him as the disenfranchised, for being gay. Over one chaotic day, we are told his life story through flashbacks - his forbidden love, his experience of life in the U.S his tragic upbringing and his struggle for a sense of belonging in a world where, no matter where he is, he always seems to b [...]

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