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on 16 October 2006
'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.
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on 7 February 2008
I bought this after reading the only review left on Amazon and I have to say that the book really lived up to it!
It really showed a whole race and religion in another light and although the characters are from another part of the world the story could ring true for anyone,anywhere.
It is a very brutal read from the 1st page but immediately your heart breaks for Bilal as his story of abuse is played out with very few characters which enables you to connect quickly with each of them.
The darkness of the story plays alongside a very touching tale of 1st love,coming of age and a young abused boy who finds the strength to fight a fight harder than any war.
I hope more people read this book as it opens your eyes to a very taboo subject which happens day in day out in real life.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 September 2011
The Kurdish Abu family lives in Kansas City, refugees having escaped Saddam Hussein's Iraq where their activist father was murdered by the police. However life is not easy in the US, they struggle financially, and Salim, the oldest brother and now family head rules with an over-zealous Muslim fury; Hakim, the second oldest disapproves but does little while the two much younger siblings suffer the brunt of Salim's brutality. But while Fatima is outspoken and stands up to Salim, the younger sixteen year old Bilal meekly takes all the Salim hands out, and this includes daily sexual abuse that has been going on since Bilal was nine years old.

Bilal is different from his brothers who are both big and strongly muscled for Bilal is slight and almost feminine in build, he also has delicate features; his school mates think him beautiful and cute, although he cannot see it. Although Bilal loves his family including Salim he hates the latter's attentions but feels powerles to do anything, family loyalties preclude it. That is until he falls in love with Muhammed, the son of the local Muslim community leader, a black American. With Muhammed's encouragement and help from an unlikely source it seems things might get much better, but before that happens things get very much worse.

Bilal's Bread is not a long story, at around 240 pages barley of average length. Yet reading it it seems much shorter such being so involving, but on content much longer for it packs a powerful punch. Sulayman X delves deep into Kurdish traditions and the Muslim faith, exposing the divisions between pure Muslim beliefs and the corrupted teachings of the more extreme adherents. The former promotes care and understanding, the latter intolerance and lacks mercy. He also looks at what it means to be gay and Muslim, especially for a young boy in a family that is still living as if in the old world of Iraq.

In Bilal Sulyman X has created a remarkable character, intelligent and thinking, staunchly loyal to his family - that is until reason and sense win through; a boy who over the course of the story grows from the timid suffering underdog to become a bold, courageous and outspoken young man. This is a moving and enlightening book, it deserves to be read for it can only encourage understanding.
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on 19 June 2008
This is simply a stunning novel. It combines on the one hand the gut wrenching brutality of Bilal's psychological, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of his oldest brother, with the poignancy of his self discovery, and his discovery of love. Sadly it also points up the hypocracy of some 'utra-religious' and 'overly macho' individuals, who condemn certain sexualities whilst secretly indulging their own illicit passions, often brutally, as if the very violence of the act makes it alright. I would recommend this novel but caution prospective readers that they will be unlikely to remain unchanged by reading it.
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on 20 October 2011
The plot of the book is better described by others here. The book is very well written and the characters very well developed and believable. What is disturbing is that the plot does not follow one's expectations. The bizarre thought processes the main characters use to justify why they do what they do and how others are responsible for their actions. While reading it I could begin to understand how some people endure dreadfully brutal family lives behind closed doors and do nothing to escape. Bilal's apartment is a Kudish family in exile but while Bilal's thinking and maturation is greatly influenced by American values the mother's and the main perpetrator Salim's are still stuck in village loyalty in Iraq despite the transposition to a new country. They couldn't understand why their values (raping your youngest brother) should cause so much trouble. Even Bilal's mother thinks he is just a trouble maker destroying 'the family'.Hakim, another brother, is for most of the book a surface American - wine women and song - but when he is confronted by Bilal with the truth he can't see what the problem is. All in all a very enlightening read if not the most pleasant. Very informative.
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on 8 December 2011
I first read this book many years ago. Then I met someone who had been through a difficult experience, and it brought this book back to mind. When I first read it, as a westerner, I thought there was dramatic licence in the book and I was a little wary of it, thinking it made a good narrative, very dramatic, almost melodramatic. But since meeting other people and learning more about things I have come to the depressing realisation that Bilal's Bread was no where near as far fetched as I had originally thought. In fact the person I bought this copy for has found it a useful way of dealing with his own issues. That speaks for itself. The story is clearly and accessibly written, it is lucid, it deals sensitively with deeply disturbing issues and, if it helps communities to stop blaming victims, making them victims twice over, and to start putting an end to abuse of young boys, and hiding it behind 'family honour' then the book has far more value than just being a story. It can help raise awareness and change attitudes. So, at whatever level, just as a piece of literature or as an expose of a difficult problem in some communities, it is well worth a read.
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on 1 October 2015
The story of Bilial, a refugee Muslim boy who has to reconcile his homosexuality & strict Muslim upbringing. The story explores how his older brother's penchant for violence & hypocritical attitudes to buggery & homosexuality affect Bilial's life & family. Something different & an interesting short book
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VINE VOICEon 21 July 2011
I had been wanting to read this book for some time and am glad that I have now had the chance.

This is a tough subject/read tackled very well - albeit some of the characters are defined more by their actions than enabling us to understand their feelings/motivations.

It is a worthwhile read.
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