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Book Title

Silence Is My Mother Tongue

A Novel
Author 1
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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5.5 x 8.25
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.
More by author


  • Finalist for the 2021 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Fiction
    Finalist for the 2021 CLMP Firecracker Award for Fiction
  • “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
  • Silence is My Mother Tongue dissects how a refugee camp erases one’s individuality, what communities demand of women, and how, in the face of great loss and scrutiny, one can find a way to redeem individuality by redefining love, sex and gender roles.”—The Rumpus
  • “Darkly poetic. . . . [Sulaiman Addonia] maintains a strong voice with vibrant lyrical imagery.”Publishers Weekly
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