Maha Gargash's second novel is set in mid-1990s Dubai and Cairo and focuses on how secrets and betrayals consume three members-an authoritarian father, a rebellious abandoned daughter, and a vulnerable niece-of a prominent Emirati family.
The head of the eminent Naseemy family, Majed, is proud to have risen into the upper echelons of Emirati society. As one of the richest businessmen in Dubai, he's used to being catered to and respected-never mind that he acquired his wealth by cheating his brother, Hareb, out of his own company and depriving his niece, Mariam, of her rights. Not one to dwell on the past-he sent Mariam to school in Egypt, what more could she want from him?-Majed spends his days berating his wife and household staff and cavorting with friends at a private bungalow. But he's suddenly plagued by nightmares that continue to haunt him during the day, and he feels his control further slipping away with the discovery that his niece and his daughter are defying his orders.
Mariam is a shy, intelligent Emirati student at a university in Cairo. Though her tuition is funded by her uncle, she seeks an education as a method of distancing herself from him-she despises Majed, whom she blames for her father's death years earlier. Hers is a strictly-organized, dutiful existence: studying hard with the girls in her dormitory and occasionally going out with her beloved cousin Dalal. But one day she falls for a brash, mischievous fellow student named Adel...and he just might prove her downfall.
Largely abandoned by Majed as the daughter of a second, disgraceful secret marriage, the vivacious Dalal has a chip on her shoulder and lot to prove. The runner-up on "Nights of Dubai," an American Idol-type reality show for Arab talent, Dalal is committed to being a singer, despite the fact that it's a disreputable career...or perhaps because of it. She lives with her mother in a Cairo slum, desperately spending her days trying to get an appointment with a composer who can make her a celebrity. But when her efforts finally begin to pay off and Dalal is drawn into the world of showbiz, she attracts the attention of her father, who is determined to subdue her to protect the family name.
An exhilarating look at the little-known Khaleeji (Gulf-Arab) culture, THAT OTHER ME explores the way way social mores contribute to the disintegration of one family. As Majed increasingly exerts his control over Mariam and Dalal, both girls resist, with explosive consequences.
THE SAND FISH was published by Harpercollins in October 2009.
Set in the 1950s in what today is Dubai, THE SAND FISH is the story of a young woman from the mountains who is sent away from her family to become the third wife of a rich, much older pearl merchant. Harper Paperbacks is proud to introduce this powerful female perspective on the Middle East.
Seventeen-year-old Noora is not like the other women of the sun-battered mountains of the Arabian Peninsula. She shares their poverty and uncomplaining existence in the harshness around her, but carries a fiery independence, having grown up with parents indifferent to the ways of society. With the death of her mother, her father sinks into madness. When her brother assumes control of the family and insists that she marry, Noora refuses, and flees to a nearby mountain village. There, she falls in love, only to discover to her horror that he is already promised to another of the village’s daughters. Shattered, Noora returns home to find that her father has disappeared and that her brother has arranged her marriage. She is to be third wife to a childless pearl merchant, and move to his “proper house” in a distant diving village.
Exploring themes of freedom, independence, scandal and jealousy, THE SAND FISH is a window into a culture—and an inspiring, universal story of self-reliance.