Raised on Charles Baudelaire, A Clockwork Orange, and fine Bordeaux in 1970s Lebanon, Darina Al-Joundi was encouraged by her unconventional father to defy all taboos. As the bombs fell, she lived an adolescence of excess and transgression, defying death in nightclubs. The more oppressive the country became, the more drugs and anonymous sex she had, fueling the resentment by day of the same men who would spend the night with her. As the war dies down, she begins to incur the consequences of her lifestyle. On his deathbed, her father's last wish is for his favorite song, "Sinnerman" by Nina Simone, to be played at his funeral instead of the traditional suras of the Koran. When she does just that, the results are catastrophic.
In this dramatic true story, Darina Al-Joundi is defiantly passionate about living her life as a liberated woman, even if it means leaving everyone and everything behind.
The author of this book is very proud of how unconventional she is, and thought that would make a great story. I have to wonder who published this book, as it is simply awful, deadly boring. Apparently the author finds her story fascinating, but I'm not sure why anyone else would. Unsettled and confused as a teen in the war-torn Middle East, she turns to partying, drugs, sex. Good gracious. The account is just a dry recitation of the facts; I did this, then I did this, then this happened, then I did that, then I did this.....
Complete disclosure: I did not finish this book. Way, way, way toooooo boring.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Darina Al-Joundi grew up wild in secular Beirut: Baudelaire, Clockwork Orange, dancing all night, fine lovers and finer Bordeaux.
When her father died, she sang Nina Simone's "Sinnerman," per his last wish, instead of the suras of the Koran.
This did not go over so well with her surviving family.
Life turned violent. Bombs started falling in Lebanon's civil war, and fundamentalism took over secular communities. The rest of her family weren’t as liberal as her father had been, and Darina was forcibly placed in an insane asylum.
Al-Joundi survived— and wrote this unforgettable memoir in exile in Paris. She is legendary throughtout the Middle East as a performer, and best known in Europe and North America for her hit play by the same title as the book.
Narrated by Lameece Issaq, with complete panache. This is one of my favorite audio productions of the year!
3 of 5 people found this review helpful
I picked this book because I hoped it would give me an insider perspective of Lebanon's history and culture.. and it did! if you know and enjoyed Persepolis, you will love this book.
Sharp and jazzy, this is a real standout literary voice. It reminds me of Sylvia Plath in places, especially towards the end with the mental hospital and her ‘redemption’ which, of course, is a false start. A very interesting book in what it has to say about culture, religion and being a free, independent woman.
This personal account of growing up and surviving Beirut is confronting on multiple levels. Attending a conference in Beirut while listening to the story brought life to the places mentioned - Hamra Street with its cafes, clubs, shops and shisha; the St George Bay and yacht club on the aqua-blue Mediterranean; and the bizarre reconstructed facades built to replace bombed city centre buildings – now largely vacant given ongoing instability and diminished tourism.
Darina Al-Joundi was brought up by her parents, and in particular her father, to value freedom, feminism of sorts, and be independent in thinking about religion. Their trusting daughter-father bond supported her in key phases of her life – personal relationships, sexual discoveries, and cocaine addiction. These occurred against a complex political backdrop – Palestine Liberation Organisation presence in Beirut, invasion by Israel in 1982, the Lebanese civil war, the Shatila massacre, Syrian control and omni-present tensions within and between political factions and faiths.
Darina Al-Joundi’s destructive cocaine addiction and unconventional relationships ultimately bring her into conflict with multiple elements of the Lebanese security state. When she challenges the assumed support for Islamic ritual at her father’s funeral, against his earlier stated preferences, she herself is abused, raped and vilified. Her friends and colleagues are silenced, fearful and unsupportive, protecting themselves as she suffers deeper and more violent abuse. Committed to a Christian mental asylum brings further abuse and reveals corrupt structures requiring one to play the game in order to secure freedom.
This is a short, confronting, disturbing but informative personal story. The violence is extreme; the challenges of forging one’s own identity in highly politicised environments is apparent. The harm done by self-destructive substance abuse complicate matters.
Darina Al-Joundi now lives in Paris; her story sheds light on what people in Lebanon and Beirut have experienced and the profound influence exerted on their lives.