Dear students-- thanks for the wonderful conversation and thoughtful Q&A with the author of The Bamboo Stalk. If you are interested in keeping the conversation going and would like to share the you wrote today in the writing workshop, we invite you to submit it here.
Date: 19 June, 2016
From: Bryan Waterman, Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Development, Global Network Associate Professor of Literature, and member of the NYU Abu Dhabi Summer Colloquium Book Selection Committee
Re: First Year Summer Reading
Dear NYUAD Class of 2020, I am very much looking forward to Marhaba, when I will get to meet many more of you than I was able to greet personally during your candidate weekends. As the Director of NYUAD's Core Curriculum and a member of this year's Summer Colloquium Book Selection Committee, it is also my distinct pleasure to send out your very first homework assignment! I think you'll agree in the end that it's not an onerous one.
Each year a group of faculty and students selects a common reading assignment for the incoming class. When you arrive we'll have opportunities to discuss the book in small groups with faculty members and some current students -- and, I'm happy to announce, with the author himself.
This year's book is the 2013 recipient of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, the novel The Bamboo Stalk by the young Kuwaiti writer Saud Alsanousi. Some of our current students, who read the book in Arabic last year, were able to meet the author at the Emirates Festival of Literature last spring. They were enthusiastic about the experience. Our committee thinks the novel will be a great way to start some common conversations about identity, imagination, and cultural curiosity that we hope will develop over the course of your NYUAD education and beyond.
The novel is set in Kuwait and the Philippines; its protagonist is half-Kuwaiti and half-Filipino. In some ways you might think that his a rather particularized identity and set of experiences, and certainly those of you with prior knowledge of Kuwaiti (or Khaleeji) or Filipino cultures might have commentary on the author's portrait of this young man and the countries in which he lives. But many more of you, I suspect, will find aspects of this character to be foreign to your own experience -- or not. How does sympathy work when we read about lives that are "different" from our own? Are there ways, you might ask, in which we're all caught between identities and the expectations others attach to them? As a reviewer in The National points out, this is a coming-of-age novel, an enduring literary sub-genre that may very well have something to say to those of you who are leaving one home behind and coming to find another here at NYUAD. The novel asks us to think critically about identity-- about our common quest to understand ourselves and also about our capacity to imagine another person's experience. This is no easy task; it's one Alsanousi took very seriously, however, and one you might find yourself called to take up repeatedly as you begin building communities at NYUAD that are large enough to embrace our differences as well as our commonalities.
Those Arabic-speakers among you may be interested to know the novel has been adapted as a Ramadan TV series, now in progress. Here is the YouTube promo.
I and other faculty, staff, and student Marhaba leaders look forward to discussing this novel with you -- and with Saud Alsanousi -- when you arrive in August. Until then, let it be a reminder that you'll be here soon enough!
Welcome to the Summer Colloquium subject guide. This guide is intended to help readers gain a better understanding of The Bamboo Stalk.
Please use the tabs above to locate information about Saud Alsanousi, discussion questions, read-a-likes, library resources, and colloquium events.