I have been living in the GCC region for nearly 16 years and we get books from authors all over the world in most of the bookstores. I’ve always wanted to read English books about this region from the GCC authors , but the choice is very limited. Glad that I discovered Motorbikes and Camels by Nejoud Al-Yagout.
Motorbikes and Camels is a debut novel of Kuwaiti poet and essayist, Nejoud Al-Yagout. She is the founder of Co-Exist Kuwait, an initiative to bridge cultural, racial, ideological, social and financial divides in her country.
From the first page till the very end I was hooked on to the novel. It is not one single story, but it has multiple tales and they are linked together perfectly. There are no gaps. The diverse characters are interesting, flawed and relatable.
Below is the excerpt from the book:
There is Salma, facing a spiritual crisis in a country steeped in dogma; Hussam- a billionaire’s son who tries but fails to conceal his gay relationship; Mohammed, a bigamist, grasping tightly to antiquated patriarchal ideals at the expense of his love life; Mike, who adopts cultural appropriation to provide him with a stable foundation when his world collapses…
There are many other characters and my favorites were Zayna and Aisha. I loved the way Motorbikes and Camels stresses the need for tolerance and acceptance in a society. Many controversial and relevant topics like gender roles, homosexual relationships, religion etc are also covered in this novel.
Motorbikes and Camels boldly tackles the social, financial, cultural and ideological divides in contemporary Kuwait.
The novel is thought-provoking, entertaining, engaging and captivating. There is never a dull moment and it is an easy and quick read. If you’re in this region or any where else in the world, Motorbikes and Camels is a good read…comes totally recommended.
Some of the quotes that I liked from the novel:
“Am I who I am because of my culture?”
“Love doesn’t punish. It is unconditional, welcoming, all-inclusive. Invite people to love. We are here to rise above the collective.”
“Rise from your thoughts. Observe and do not feed them by delving into fantasies.”
“Let your discernment use you. Get out of the way.”
“We talk about Islamophobia, but we have everything here: Sikh-phobia, Buddhist-phobia, Judeo-phobia, Christo-phobia, Jain-phobia, agnostic-phobia, atheist-phobia. ”
“Isn’t it strange we have mosques on every corner and just a handful of churches? And nothing else.”
“If we want respect, we have to give it to others.”
“I obey my religion too. But I know it gives women the freedom to choose.”