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Paperback review: Brooklyn Heights, By Miral al-Tahawy (Trs by Samah Selim)

Highs and lows of a  New York immigrant

When Hend’s marriage breaks up, she emigrates to New York with her eight-year-old son. The novel is a lyrical exploration of the immigrant experience, weaving back and forth between Hend’s life in Brooklyn, and her memories of growing up in Cairo in a Bedouin family.

Hend remembers her schooldays, and the Arabic teacher ogling the girls’ developing bodies, and her Christian grandmother, “the Guest”, who had a chest full of gowns she never wore. In New York, she befriends other immigrants, haunts flea markets, drinks beer, tries to learn dancing, and gets a bit-part in a film. This isn’t a plot-driven novel, but one reads for the sense of place, and character, and the rich texture of the prose.