ALL Book Reviews The New York Times Book Review

Vulnerable in Morocco

Laila Lalami, a Moroccan- American writer who in her late 20s crossed a literary border into the landscape of English prose, begins her first novel with lines from the Cuban-American poet Gustavo Pérez Firmat: “The fact that I / am writing to you / in English / already falsifies what I wanted to tell you.” There’s a disarming fatalism about this epigraph, with its suggestion that the ensuing words might be counterfeit because they are coined neither in Lalami’s first language (Arabic) nor her second (French).

Lalami has said she chooses to write in English partly because she wants to speak directly to Americans, who read few translated books but urgently need authentic maps to those parts of the world where inequality has electroshocked the terrorist id into being. Read my review of her debut novel, Secret Son, in The New York Times Book Review.