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Tsitsi Dangarembga appears in court this week, just days after her novel This Mournable Body was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. Read more about her July protest during a government crackdown in Zimbabwe here

Silence Is My Mother Tongue

A Novel
Sulaiman Addonia
On a hill overlooking a refugee camp in Sudan, a young man strings up bedsheets that, in an act of imaginative resilience, will serve as a screen in his silent cinema. From the cinema he can see all the comings and goings in the camp, especially those of two new arrivals: a girl named Saba, and her mute brother, Hagos.

For these siblings, adapting to life in the camp is not easy. Saba mourns the future she lost when she was forced to abandon school, while Hagos, scorned for his inability to speak, must live vicariously through his sister. Both resist societal expectations by seeking to redefine love, sex, and gender roles in their lives, and when a businessman opens a shop and befriends Hagos, they cast off those pressures and make an unconventional choice.

With this cast of complex, beautifully drawn characters, Sulaiman Addonia details the textures and rhythms of everyday life in a refugee camp, and questions what it means to be an individual when one has lost all that makes a home or a future. Intimate and subversive, Silence Is My Mother Tongue dissects the ways society wages war on women and explores the stories we must tell to survive in a broken, inhospitable environment.

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A sensuous, textured novel of life in a refugee camp, longlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction

About the Author

Sulaiman Addonia spent his early life in a refugee camp and went on to earn an MA from the University of London. His novel The Consequences of Love was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and translated into more than twenty languages.
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  • “Jagged yet subtle. . . . The structure keeps upending the ordinary. [Silence Is My Mother Tongue] reads like a picaresque in a nutshell, tightly confined yet full of reversals. Some are swift as a finger-snap, others unfold like a ballad. . . . Addonia [has] asserted the humanity of people often cloaked in shadow.”—The Brooklyn Rail
  • “Darkly poetic. . . . [Sulaiman Addonia] maintains a strong voice with vibrant lyrical imagery.”Publishers Weekly
  • “The novel’s vignette structure underscores the fragmentary, hallucinatory quality of trauma and memory. A memorable chronicle about ‘the bitterness of exile’ and the endurance of the spirit.”Kirkus Reviews
  • “Sulaiman Addonia’s Silence is My Mother Tongue, perhaps in defiance of expectations, sings with the confidence of characters who believe that they are going to end up somewhere better, someday, even if they have to wade through the mire to get there.”Ploughshares
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