The book is an enjoyable read. It takes the reader to the Zevaco Market of Casablanca, Morocco and shows the way of life of the regulars who inhabit the market. It is a colorful and riotously funny account. Because Morocco has a predominantly Muslim culture, we gain insight into the family and how families might deal with women who work as prostitutes.
The book is full of surprises. We encounter the betrayal of a lazy husband; the resourcefulness and humor of the protagonist who makes a life for herself and her daughter; the solidarity of ordinary Moroccan neighborhood people; the opportunity to be part of a film production.
We get short glimpses of stays in hospitals, health care, etc.
It is unusual to find a prostitute as the protagonist of a novel, especially since such s life is fraught with danger and risk but the hilarity of the heroine’s lifestyle and viewpoint make a potentially difficult and ugly life palatable and somehow endearing.
American readers will have lots of cultural comparisons to make. We learn about the condition of women who experience economic difficulties, the place of religion and the reverence and influence of religious leaders. It is all told with a raw honesty and lives of the struggling working class in Morocco.
Withal, the author does not overtly promote or condemn any specific cause but revels in the telling of an unusual tale. If anything, our uniqueness as individuals within cultures is contested by many common desires and tendencies as human beings.
Meryem Alaoui was nominated for the prestigious Goncourt prize in September 2018. She is the daughter of poet and former Moroccan MP Driss Alaoui M’Dghari and wife, former journalist, Ahmed Reda Benchemsi, Director of Human Rights Watch for the Arab World.
*Nominated by Maria Traub