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2006 Program

The Life of the Mind common book selection for the Class of 2010 is Laila Lalami’s Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits.


While Djebar’s characters find meaning in their struggle against cultural amnesia, injustice, and subjugation, Lalami’s are entangled in a postmodern world of crisis, poverty, confusion, and corruption, in which it is not geographical or political boundaries that determine identities, but rather an amalgamation of factors that go beyond the traditional idea of a nation. Their country has deluded them, obfuscated their hopes, deferred their dreams, and blackened their future. They are endlessly in pursuit of the bits and pieces with which to make and remake their identities. In this social and economic environment, the gulf between the haves and the have-nots is increasing alarmingly. The youth are trapped between three bitter alternatives: ‘destitution, delinquency or death.’
—Nadia Boudidah Falfoul, Women’s Review of Books


About the Book

hope-other-dangerous-pursuits-by-laila-lalami-L-ZyFAUEIn her exciting debut, Laila Lalami evokes the grit and enduring grace that is modern Morocco and offers an authentic look at the Muslim immigrant experience today.

The book begins as four Moroccans illegally cross the Strait of Gibraltar in an inflatable boat headed for Spain. There’s Murad, a gentle, educated man who’s been reduced to hustling tourists around Tangier; Halima, who’s fleeing her drunken husband and the slums of Casablanca; Aziz, who must leave behind his devoted wife to find work in Spain; and Faten, a student and religious fanatic whose faith is at odds with an influential man determined to destroy her future.

What has driven these men and women to risk their lives? And will the rewards prove to be worth the danger? Sensitively written with beauty and boldness, this is a gripping book about people in search of a better future.

Praise for Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits


In a book that feels as contemporary as a newspaper headline, that seems to explain so much… Lalami paints a vivid picture of modern-day Morocco as a place of dashed dreams and political repression.


With subtlety and grace the author explores the emotional complexities of the culture they’re trying to escape–one that bears more resemblance to ours than we may imagine.


About the Author

6a00d8341c562c53ef014e5f64c20c970c-800wiLaila Lalami was born and raised in Morocco. She attended Université Mohammed-V in Rabat, University College in London, and the University of Southern California, where she earned a Ph.D. in linguistics. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, the New York Times, the Washington Post and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a British Council Fellowship and a Fulbright Fellowship. She was short-listed for the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2006, National Book Critics’ Circle Nona Balakian Award in 2009 and long-listed for the Orange Prize in 2010. She is the author of the short story collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and the novel Secret Son. Her work has been translated into ten languages. She is currently Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California at Riverside.

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