In her Muslim hijab, with her down-turned gaze, Najwa is invisible to most eyes, especially to the rich families whose houses she cleans. Twenty years ago, Najwa, then at university in Khartoum, would never have imagined that one day she would be a maid. An upper class westernised Sudanese, her dreams were to marry well and raise a family. Then a coup forces the young woman and her family into political exile in London. The years that follow hold more trials for Najwa and the realization that she has come down in the world. But she finds solace - in her visits to the Regents Park Mosque, the companionship among the Muslims she meets there and strength in the hijab she adopts. Her dreams of love may have shattered but her awakening to Islam has given her a different peace. Then Najwa meets Tamer, the intense, lonely younger brother of her employer. They find a common bond in faith and slowly, silently, begin to fall in love
Leila Aboulela won the first Caine Prize for African Writing. Her new novel Lyrics Alley is set in 1950s Sudan and is based on the life of her uncle the poet Hassan Awad Aboulela who wrote the lyrics for many popular Sudanese songs. Leila is the author of two other novels: The Translator, one of The New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year, and Minaret- both long-listed for the Orange Prize. Her collection of short stories Coloured Lights was short-listed for the Macmillan Silver PEN Award. Leila's work has been translated into twelve languages and included in publications such as Granta, The Washington Post and the Virginia Quarterly Review. She grew up in Khartoum and now lives in Doha.
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