Praise and Reviews

“A dream of a debut, by turns troubling and glorious, angry and wise. With her spare elegant prose Lalami has constructed a world remarkable for its resilience, its vibrancy, its motion, and yes, its hope.”
—Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz, author of Drown

“Laila Lalami’s compelling work of fiction provides an anatomy of hope and struggle. Building with quiet urgency, these tales gradually transform into the story of a nation and a profound moment in history.”
—Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent and The Language of Baklava

“Lalami writes in a style both pragmatic and poetic, with romance and the human condition coiled together. An excellent book”.
—Whitney Otto, author of How to Make an American Quilt

“Lalami writes about her home country without the expatriate’s self-indulgent and often condescending nostalgia. She brings a calm sympathy to all her characters… her evenhandedness offers us no scope for easy judgments.”
—Pankaj Mishra, The New York Review of Books, March 2007

“This poetic first novel begins with the illegal journey of four Moroccans across the Strait of Gibraltar in an inflatable boat headed for Spain. Lalami then explores the circumstances leading to their harrowing passage and what awaits them.”
—Ihsan Taylor, New York Times Book Review, December 2006

“Laila Lalami’s novel, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, feels as if literature has spoken directly to me for the first time in my life.”
—Anouar Majid, Tingis Magazine, December 2006

“While Djebar’s characters find meaning in their struggle against cultural amnesia, injustice, and subjugation, Lalami’s are entangled in a postmodern world of crisis, poverty, confusion, and corruption, in which it is not geographical or political boundaries that determine identities, but rather an amalgamation of factors that go beyond the traditional idea of a nation. Their country has deluded them, obfuscated their hopes, deferred their dreams, and blackened their future. They are endlessly in pursuit of the bits and pieces with which to make and remake their identities. In this social and economic environment, the gulf between the haves and the have-nots is increasing alarmingly. The youth are trapped between three bitter alternatives: ‘destitution, delinquency or death.'”
—Nadia Boudidah Falfoul, Women’s Review of Books, August 2006

“Whatever culture is, it seems so thinly membraned, yet so resilient, that it muffles the meanings of the words “departure” and “arrival.” Unlike those of other short novels by writers such as Chinua Achebe and Françoise Sagan, the characters and trajectory of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits are not restricted to their own small but complete microcosms.”
—Helen Oyeyemi, Times Literary Supplement, February 2006

“In a book that feels as contemporary as a newspaper headline, that seems to explain so much… Lalami paints a vivid picture of modern-day Morocco as a place of dashed dreams and political repression.”
—Thrity Umrigar, The Boston Globe, December 2005

thenation.jpg“With grace and authority, Lalami evokes the unease of men and women adrift, caught between the stagnation of their homeland and the hope of a better life on another shore. … These are quiet yet tough-minded stories: Around their gentle core, the desperation of the characters and the gritty edges of their world resonate forcefully. Often it is in the silences between words that the tensions fester and loss is felt, as much as in the words themselves.”
—Emily Lodish, The Nation, December 2005

“A bracing and beautiful little novel…All this is about far more than crossing the Strait of Gibraltar. “Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits” is about the downside of globalization and what happens to those who live far down the human food chain. They lose not only their jobs but also their customs, relatives, families, friends. And that’s when they get just a little bit mad. But this little novel is not worker-lit. It does no more than tell the stories of four engaging people we wouldn’t otherwise know. The author accomplishes it with supreme grace and style.
—Carolyn See, The Washington Post, October 2005

“After working for several years as a bus boy in Madrid, Aziz, the devoted husband, pays a visit to his wife and mother in Casablanca, and the women break into a long ululation. I don’t know that I’d go that far in praise of this first book, but, I’d come close.”
—Alan Cheuse on NPR’s All Things Considered, November 2005

“[Lalami] packs her short chapters with action, suspense and characters that seem to come off the page…people who dream of a better life and feel the need to leave their country to make their lives better. She is a sharp observer of the human condition, and she infuses her characters with universal emotions that make us see ourselves in these others.”
—Kathryn Masterson, Chicago Tribune, November 2005

elle.jpg“Lalami’s thrilling debut novel follows four desperate people–a fanatical student, a gentle hustler, an abused wife, and a husband searching for decent wages–fleeing Morocco in a flimsy boat across the dangerous Strait of Gibraltar in a death-defying bid for freedom in Spain, a narrative journey that Lalami handles with a keen sense of history, hope, and panache.”
Elle, November 2005

glamour.jpgMust Read List: “For a timely look at Muslim lives, Laila Lalami’s linked short stories take you on an illegal raft ride with Moroccans fleeing to Spain.”
Glamour, November 2005

people.jpg“With subtlety and grace the author explores the emotional complexities of the culture they’re trying to escape–one that bears more resemblance to ours than we may imagine.”
People, October 2005

bust.gif“Laila Lalami’s debut novel is an absolute treasure. With realistic, clear, wonderful writing, she fully explores her characters–flaws, strengths, and all.”
Bust, October 2005

“With the same incisive grace displayed in her online commentary, Lalami explores the increasingly desperate motives and emotions surrounding illegal immigration from her native Morocco.”
World Pulse Magazine, February 2006

“Lalami interweaves the stories to show the local effects of globalization…in her own distinctive contribution to this global literature she eschews the exoticism and magic realism that might cast culture in a romantic light. Not from lack of imagination, but from a reluctance to expose the most authentic details of a culture under siege.”
The Oregonian, November 2005

“Each chapter contains a light, sure sense of its subject and a clear-eyed assessment of people who may be at an impasse right now, but will surely find their way with a little luck in the future — no matter how “dangerous” their pursuit of hope proves to be.”
The Seattle Times, December 2005

“An impressive debut….This young author, who writes beautifully, charts a different course, ending her volume with cautious optimism. With this debut, Lalami becomes an artist to watch.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer, October 2005

“This elegantly written debut novel presents four fictional characters who share the same dream.”
Dallas Morning News, December 2005.

“Laila Lalami’s Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits is the first novel in a long time to tell a bold, un-nostalgic migration story. And she does it well.”
—WBAI’s Radio Tahrir, February 2006.

“[Lalami] understands that life often turns on the simplest things: a broken string of prayer beads, a son’s gesture, or a meal cooked as a peace offering. Her first novel gives readers good reason to hope for more.”
The Charlotte Observer, December 2005

“Lalami has given us much to consider. She does so with grace and simplicity but avoids preaching and politics. Hope is a dangerous pursuit, but understanding can be dangerous, too. Lalami takes us on a journey of understanding and brings us home again to our favorite chair, safe and sound.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 2005

“Compelling and page-worthy characters…[They] give a face to a group of people often lumped together as a thorny issue for governments to deal with, or as just “illegals” in the media and common culture. Hard not to sympathize with these characters Lalami makes as familiar to us as a neighbor, a friend, a reflection in the mirror.”
Boston’s Weekly Dig, November 2005

“Lalami has a remarkable command of simplicity. She keeps her prose sparse and evocative; her characters are fleshed out by a few telling gestures and expressions. Her descriptions of physical action (as in a scuffle between Halima and a corrupt judge, or Murad’s dash away from the Spanish police) are perfect, told in breathtakingly swift and economical detail.”
Cairo Magazine, October 2005

“a worthwhile read, and a writer to watch.”
The San Francisco Chronicle, November 2005

” This well written “journal” is a reminder in spite of religious and cultural differences, we all have the same wants and needs under the skin — a timely topic in this age when the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina have taken center stage.”
Rocky Mountain News, October, 2005

“With spare prose and superb characterization, these tales of determined struggle command fierce credibility and irresistible empathy….This is an unexpected and enthralling read from a promising new voice.”
Boldtype, October 2005

“Throughout the book there is the aroma of the mint tea served at every meal, the joyful cries of children playing soccer, the sound of the muezzin’s call to prayer. Chief among them, though, is the pull of her characters’ hope. As determined as her characters, Lalami sets out to prove the strength of the human spirit.”
Book Page, February 2006

“Lalami’s story lines are evocative, her characters arresting, the settings vivid, and her voice pure and penetrating, ensuring that these striking tales of unsanctioned journeys and urgently improvised lives are at once timely and timeless.”
Booklist, August 2005

“This intense portrait of a gorgeous, once-powerful civilization stands in stark relief to the modern society Lalami skillfully depicts with gritty realism. . .impressive: This could well be the preamble to an important body of work.”
Kirkus Reviews, August 2005

“Lalami’s first novel is made up of linked short stories that bear witness to the human spirit and perseverance….Lalami’s characters are believable, sympathetic, and quite ordinary, nurturing hopes and dreams of a better life in the face of harsh conditions. An eloquent, fascinating glimpse into Moroccan culture and traditions, this debut is highly recommended.”
Library Journal, August 2005

“With a softness and lyricism that belie the fact that this is a first novel, the narrative introduces readers to beautifully drawn characters who make for a gem of a tale.”
School Library Journal, December 2005

“…finely detailed portraits, this book gives outsiders a glimpse of some of Moroccan society’s strata and the desperation that underlies many ordinary lives. ”
Publisher’s Weekly, August 2005

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