In this week’s talking about books, we look at “The Other Americans,” written by Moroccan American novelist Laila Lalami and published by Pantheon Books.
The book is now four years into publication but remains an important work. It unravels a compelling mystery surrounding the suspicious death of Moroccan immigrant Driss Guerraoui in a hit-and-run accident in a California town.
Narrated from the perspectives of nine interconnected characters, the novel weaves a tapestry of family saga, murder mystery, and love story against the backdrop of the complex fault lines in American culture.
Late one spring night, Driss Guerraoui meets his untimely demise in a tragic accident, setting off a chain of events that brings together a diverse group of characters. These include Guerraoui’s daughter Nora, a jazz composer returning to the Mojave town she thought she had left behind; his widow Maryam, still yearning for her life in the old country; Efraín, an undocumented witness hindered by the fear of deportation; Jeremy, an Iraq War veteran and old friend of Nora’s; Coleman, a detective unraveling her son’s secrets; Anderson, a neighbor on a quest to reconnect with his family, and the deceased himself.
Messy and unpredictable forms
As each character shares their perspective, the invisible threads binding them — despite racial, religious, and class divisions — gradually surface. The novel delves into the heart of Driss’s family, exposing their secrets, as the town confronts its hypocrisies and love, in all its messy and unpredictable forms, blossoms.
Critically acclaimed, “The Other Americans” was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction and the Kirkus Prize. It clinched the Joyce Carol Oates Prize and, in 2020, secured the Arab American Book Award for Fiction. Additionally, the novel found a place on the longlist for the Aspen Words Literary Prize.
If there is one book, you must grab this weekend, I’d strongly recommand “The Other Americans”
Ahmad Nazir is a UAE based freelance writer