“Compelling… An essential book to understanding the double disaster that befell the identity of moderate Muslims in the Western world after the fall of the Twin Towers. A literary accomplishment of great importance…”
“An utterly absorbing read: harrowing and uplifting in equal measure, it sings the music of the heart.”
"This is a powerful tale that takes on one of the central traumas of our time, and has something to teach us in the telling. Bouziane inspires with her story that shows the importance of taking ‘home' with you wherever you go, building community, and persevering against the unimaginable.
"Bouziane's intense, captivating debut tells the story of Jeehan Nathaar, who, months after 9/11, decides to leave New York City and return to Morocco. Added to the trauma of seeing the collapse of the World Trade Center, Jeehan feels it's her duty to be the ‘spokesperson and defense attorney for all Muslims' to coworkers who press her to explain ‘why Muslims hate Americans so much.' Feeling isolated and disillusioned, Jeehan is persuaded by her on-again, off-again lover, Moroccan journalist Ali el Qutab, to work with him on a story about human trafficking in the southern desert of Morocco. However, he fails to meet her at the Casablanca Airport. Travelling alone, she falls ill and rests at an inn. While being nursed back to health by a motherly innkeeper's wife, Jeehan meets women at the inn who were trafficking victims. Once Jeehan recovers, she finds new purpose by embarking solo on the project Ali had proposed. Bouziane's writing is tactile and evocative, and her pacing is simultaneously languid yet brisk as the narrative jumps back and forth from Morocco to flashbacks in New York, effectively capturing Jeehan's inner turmoil. This is an excellent and uplifting subversion of American bildungsroman narratives.
"A sophisticated examination of cross-cultural tension at the dawn of the 21st century ' In the wake of 9/11, a Moroccan American woman seeks refuge in the land of her ancestors. Born in the United States to a Moroccan father and a French mother and educated in America and Morocco, Jeehan Nathaar finds her life upended when she witnesses the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. After involuntarily abandoning her Ph.D. dissertation in ancient history, she's working as a corporate temp in an environment where her ethnic and religious identities make her an object of suspicion and even open hostility from co-workers who demand an answer to the question, ‘Why do you hate us so much?' Seeking an excuse to flee these pressures, Jeehan impulsively accepts an invitation from Ali, a young Moroccan journalist who's her casual romantic partner, to join him in reporting a story on the plight of migrants fleeing through the Sahara and across the Mediterranean. But from the time she arrives in Casablanca to find that Ali instead has departed for Spain, her life takes a decidedly different turn. Finding her way to a remote desert lodging and suffering from both physical and emotional debilities, she takes up residence with Lahcen, Fatima, and their teenage son, Fareed, in the process discovering the futility of distance as a remedy for her angst. Bouziane's debut novel subtly explores Jeehan's malaise in both the fear-filled atmosphere of post–9/11 New York City and the harshly beautiful and unforgiving Moroccan desert, moving smoothly between those settings in terse, mostly alternating, chapters. In the latter locale, she's especially adept at blending psychological realism with mystical elements that underscore the gulf separating the cultures of West and East. The story's final third, in which Bouziane injects some thriller-like elements as Jeehan comes face to face with the evils of human trafficking, feels underdeveloped compared to the rest of the novel, but that shortcoming ultimately doesn't detract overmuch from the book's dominant mood or themes.
"Bouziane's debut has duality at its core: geographical, experiential, and regarding identity. Protagonist Jeehan Nathaar is living in New York City when the towers fall on September 11. In the aftermath, Jeehan's colleagues ask her questions about the difference between Arabs and Muslims and, more pointedly and threateningly, why do Arabs hate Americans. Smart enough to know that no answer will do, Jeehan suffers the angst, despair, and alienation that follows the loss of her American dream. She flees, returning to Morocco where she finds more challenges and more questions, this time in reverse: are Americans as hateful as they seem? The novel's structure replicates this duality in alternating—yet mirroring—narratives and chapters set in New York and Morocco, often with parallel elements ' Readers will learn important cultural lessons and empathize with Jeehan's no-win struggle.
"A book that will take its place in the history of literature.
"From NYC and its murdered and fallen 9/11 towers to the high Atlas mountains and searing dunes of Morocco, Anissa Bouziane's Dune Song is an exploration of the fraught soul of our time. Read its final pages slowly, needing for it to not end. A necessary, poetic, subtle, and brave book. Its power must enter and remain in the eye and the heart and in our fragile hope."
– Margo Berdeshevsky, author of "Before the Drought"
"Constructed like a puzzle which assembles itself before our eyes, Anissa Bouziane's book is lifted, feather-like, by a prose both precise and delicate. An epic tale made of strong images, where style breathes with force into the immensity of the story's spaces.
"Bouziane addresses political events in deeply personal ways and she imbues personal actions with deep political meaning. She weaves a story as poetic and transfixing as the desert landscape where much of of it takes place and as wide ranging as the East-West divide which she attempts to bridge with her exquisite prose.
– Devan Sipher, author of The Wedding Beat and The Scenic Route
"With the struggles from New York to the Moroccan dessert of the secular Muslim, academic woman, Jeehan, Anissa Bouziane's Dune Song, in beautiful prose draws a compelling portrait of what happens to us, when the world for no reasons of our own, starts viewing us entirely differently. An essential book to understanding the double disaster that befell the identity of moderate Muslims in the Western world after the fall of the Twin Towers. A literary accomplishment of great importance..."
– Janne Teller, author of the award-winning novel Nothing
Poetic... In bringing the two worlds together, this book adds its voice to related works by Khaled Hosseini and Jhumpa Lahiri.
Beautifully written... Bouziane's prose is taut and lyrical and she manages to create a very powerful sense of both New York and the Moroccan dunes. The sense of numbness and shock following that dreadful incident in New York is vividly conveyed and so too is the experience of being Muslim and constantly under suspicion. And then, in total contrast, she recreates for the reader, in prose that is closer to poetry in places, the beauty, the stillness, the emptiness and the peace of the Moroccan desert.
Both precise and lyrical, this novel of epic scope suggests it's through service towards those whom fortune has forsaken that one can truly find peace.
– Fouad Laroui, winner of the Prix Goncourt
Rich and gripping... The story that Anissa Bouziane tells with brio inhabits the world between thriller and philosophical tale... A text that is true, precise and without concession.
– Mahi Binebine, shortlisted for the Prix Renaudot