A young Egyptian woman chronicles her personal and political coming of age in this debut novel.
Cairo, 1984. A blisteringly hot summer. A young girl in a sprawling family house. Her days pass quietly: listening to a mother's phone conversations, looking at the Nile from a bedroom window, watching the three state-sanctioned TV stations with the volume off, daydreaming about other lives. Underlying this claustrophobic routine is mystery and loss. Relatives mutter darkly about the newly appointed President Mubarak. Everyone talks with melancholy about the past. People disappear overnight. Her own father has left, too - why, or to where, no one will say.
We meet her across three decades, from youth to adulthood: as a six-year-old absorbing the world around her, filled with questions she can't ask; as a college student and aspiring filmmaker preoccupied with love, language, and the repression that surrounds her; and then later, in the turbulent aftermath of Mubarak's overthrow, as a writer exploring her own past. Reunited with her father, she wonders about the silences that have marked and shaped her life.
At once a mapping of a city in transformation and a story about the shifting realities and fates of a single Egyptian family, Yasmine El Rashidi's Chronicle of a Last Summer traces the fine line between survival and complicity, exploring the conscience of a generation raised in silence.
"A remarkably clear, generous, and elegant reading of metropolitan life in Cairo. Yasmine El Rashidi has an extraordinary eye for detail: on the streets of Cairo, at school, at home, in the realm of politics, she captures everything and in the process gives one of the most uncannily clairvoyant and astute portrayals of today's Egypt. The streets are exceptionally dirty, life can be stultifying, cruel, and unsafe, the buildings couldn't be uglier, and the secret police lies in wait just about everywhere. Rashidi has always been unsparing in her frequent bulletins about the Arab Spring and its aftermath in The New York Review of Books. Here she is no less penetrating, though this also happens to be a moving and lyrical account of a young woman's maturation from early girlhood, through adolescence, and adulthood." (André Aciman, author of Harvard Square)
"Yasmine El Rashidi's debut is politically minded, but with a beating heart at its core - a beautiful alchemy between an achingly human coming-of-age story and a political examination of a country with a deep, nuanced history." (ELLE)
"A moving and memorable portrait of a girl growing up under a repressive regime, struggling with its imposed silences, and finding her voice. In clear and elegant prose, Chronicle of a Last Summer probes the space in which the personal and the political meet and, at times, collide." (Laila Lalami, author of The Moor's Account)
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