A Middle-Eastern capital caught in the revolutionary wave of the Arab Spring. A day in the life of a young man disillusioned with both East and West and struggling to find a place for himself in a society ruled by hypocrisy and contradictions. Rasa works as an interpreter for Western journalists by day and divides his nights between the Guapa, an underground nightclub where the city’s clandestine LGBT community congregates, and his secret lover Taymour. Every night Taymour sneaks into the house Rasa shares with his overbearing grandmother, the woman who raised him. When she finds them in bed together on the eve of Taymour’s wedding day, all hell breaks loose. That same day Rasa learns his best friend, the famous drag queen Majid, has been arrested by the police. Unable to go home, afraid for Majid’s fate, and heartbroken by Taymour’s determination to keep living a double life, Rasa’s fragile balance collapses, while all around him the brief, intense season of public protest is cut short by the regime’s repression and the rapid rise of the hard-line Islamist movement.
Wry and aching, irresistibly funny at times, Guapa heralds the arrival of a strong new voice from the Arabic world.
“Freewheeling and incendiary.”
—London Review of Books
“Guapa offers an intimate, complex portrait of gay life in the Arab world, a subject rarely explored in fiction.”
“This immensely readable novel is fluent, passionate and emotionally honest. Equally astute in its analysis of Arab and American mores, the book’s characters are nuanced and dynamic; it gives fresh life to the maxim 'the personal is political'.”
“…vibrant, wrenching début novel...sensuous and caustic, full of smoke and blood.”
—The New Yorker
“Family, identity, and politics collide in Haddad’s debut . . . The topic of gay life in the Arab world is richly complex, and Haddad’s cinematic, evocative prose rises to meet the sensitive subject matter.”
“A remarkable debut.”
—The Huffington Post
“Guapa sets Haddad up as a literary voice capable of narrating untold stories of the modern gay experience, from one of the most complicated parts of the world.”
Saleem Haddad was born in Kuwait City in 1983 to a Lebanese-Palestinian father and an Iraqi-German mother, and educated in Jordan, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He has worked as an aid worker with Médecins Sans Frontières in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, and currently lives in London, where he advises on inclusion of refugees, women, and young people in the transition and peace processes of the Arab Spring.