“I fell into a deep dream-filled sleep, striped in gray and yellow like an autumnal storm.”
Using similes vivid with emotion, the flow of the words and language itself in Nedjma’s The Almond struck me to be as sensual as the subject matter of an Arab woman rekindling her own passions. As a typical American woman, I picked up the book out of sheer curiosity: to see what feminine sexuality might be like for an Arab.
She speaks of her initial escape with brevity, the lack of emotion speaking volumes. It is set down with bleak clarity and honesty. Her new world is filled with liberated desires that she never would have given birth to, had she not found the courage to escape. Men, women, flirting with pain- and then more. Naked honesty. From “a second heart had grown between my legs” to the ugliness of being unwillingly possessed to then learning a universal truth that took her a lifetime, and several reincarnations of herself to accept.
The author seems to use her Aunt as a tool in her writing. Aunt Selma spices the tale with rampant sarcasm and tacky comedic stories. She mocks all on Earth- all that is Above and Below as well. It is Selma who grounds the book in reality. I speak the language of Sarcasm fluently. Without that brilliance on the part of the author, this book would have been little more than a sexualized fairy tale.
What I found very interesting was the overall feel of the book. It changed from beginning to end, so gradually that it isn’t noticed. The beginning was almost flowery, poetic. By the end, she was brusque in her detailed descriptions of encounters. She’d taken ownership of her sexuality and no longer saw it as fragile or dreamlike. As she became more real and jaded, so did her writing.
Nedjma broke from tradition and battered taboos, just as any American woman would in a personal journey. She shares the story of her discovery of self with grace and blasphemy that is admirable. The Almond: The Sexual Awakening of a Muslim Woman is simply erotic in its truth.