The Bamboo Stalk, by the Kuwaiti novelist and journalist Saud Alsanousi, is a daring work which looks objectively at the phenomenon of foreign workers in Arab countries and deals with the problem of identity through the life of a young man of mixed race who returns to Kuwait, the ‘dream’ or ‘heaven’ which his mother had described to him since he was a child.
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (2016)
Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
Josephine escapes poverty by coming to Kuwait from the Philippines to work as a maid, where she meets Rashid, an idealistic only son with literary aspirations. Josephine, with all the wide-eyed naivety of youth, believes she has found true love. But when she becomes pregnant, and with the rumble of war growing ever louder, Rashid bows to family and social pressure, and sends her back home with her baby son, José. Brought up struggling with his dual identity, José clings to the hope of returning to his father’s country when he is eighteen. He is ill-prepared to plunge head-first into a world where the fear of tyrants and dictators is nothing compared to the fear of ‘what will people say’. And with a Filipino face, a Kuwaiti passport, an Arab surname and a Christian first name, will his father’s country welcome him?
The Bamboo Stalk takes an unflinching look at the lives of foreign workers in Arab countries and confronts the universal problems of identity, race and religion.