'Bilal's Bread' should really fall into the category of a 'coming of age' novel, but there is some magic ingredient that seems to lift it into a category of it's own. Perhaps what distinguishes this novel is the graphic sexual nature, or the equal precedence given to the issues of religious, ethnic and cultural isolation; either way, it is a tremendous read for all ages and nationalities.
Bilal is a 16 year old Kurdish boy living in Kansas City with his family - who fled to America after Bilal's father was murdered by Iraqi Secret Police. His family consists of his ineffectual mother, who still lives in the past, an older sister, who has adapted with enthusiasm to life in America, and two older brothers. One, Hakim, has largely renounced Islam and is content to live an easy, Western life. The other, Salim, now 'head of the family', is fanatical about religion, family pride, and preserving the dead father's memory.
Inevitably there are tensions in the local community post 9/11, as the middle eastern families are treated as terrorists by their neighbours and shunned by local businesses. Bilal's journey is even more hazardous due to his growing realisation that he is gay, and his attraction to his best friend, son of the local Imam. Added to this mixture, is the brutal and tyrannical rule of his older brother, Salim, now 26, who has been raping Bilal since he was 9 years old.
The author, Sulayman X, has produced a gripping novel from this melting pot of conflicted loyalties, indoctrinated religious beliefs, and family and social pressures. Though dark and bleak at times, 'Bilal's Bread' is also a cautiously optimistic, incredibly erotic work, and assists in breaking down sweeping prejudices. Highly recommended.