Reading the World: Silence is My Mother Tongue

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On a hill overlooking a refugee camp in Sudan, a young man strings up bedsheets that, in an act of imaginative resilience, will serve as a screen in his silent cinema. From the cinema he can see all the comings and goings in the camp, especially those of two new arrivals: a girl named Saba, and her mute brother, Hagos. For these siblings, adapting to life in the camp is not easy. Saba mourns the future she lost when she was forced to abandon school, while Hagos, scorned for his inability to speak, must live vicariously through his sister. Both resist societal expectations by seeking to redefine love, sex, and gender roles in their lives, and when a businessman opens a shop and befriends Hagos, they cast off those pressures and make an unconventional choice.

With this cast of complex, beautifully drawn characters, Sulaiman Addonia details the textures and rhythms of everyday life in a refugee camp, and questions what it means to be an individual when one has lost all that makes a home or a future. Intimate and subversive, Silence Is My Mother Tongue dissects the ways society wages war on women and explores the stories we must tell to survive in a broken, inhospitable environment.

Silence is My Mother Tongue dissects how a refugee camp erases one’s individuality, what communities demand of women, and how, in the face of great loss and scrutiny, one can find a way to redeem individuality by redefining love, sex and gender roles.”The Rumpus

“Sulaiman Addonia’s Silence Is My Mother Tongue, perhaps in defiance of expectations, sings with the confidence of characters who believe that they are going to end up somewhere better, someday, even if they have to wade through the mire to get there.”Ploughshares

“Jagged yet subtle. . . . The structure keeps upending the ordinary. [Silence Is My Mother Tongue] reads like a picaresque in a nutshell, tightly confined yet full of reversals. Some are swift as a finger-snap, others unfold like a ballad. . . . Addonia [has] asserted the humanity of people often cloaked in shadow.”The Brooklyn Rail

“The novel’s vignette structure underscores the fragmentary, hallucinatory quality of trauma and memory. A memorable chronicle about ‘the bitterness of exile’ and the endurance of the spirit.”Kirkus Reviews


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Silence Is My Mother Tongue: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781644450338
Availability: Available - We'll have it for you ASAP!
Published: Graywolf Press - September 8th, 2020

Event date: 
Wednesday, December 1, 2021 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Event address: 
304 S. Elm St.
Greensboro, NC 27401