Hi ! Sorry for the weird message, i'm NOT AT ALL used to these groups and cannot find the way to send you a private message... Would you be kind enough to teach me how to do this please ? Thanks in advance !
This thread came back to life with a strange post from someone asking me to contact him on a French e-mail address. I'm not going to do that - but happy to respond to a private message on this site.
But it did get me looking at more recent comment on this work. It seems the book generated a firestorm on social media, being branded racist and relying on stereotypes. This article captures the criticism pretty well: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/nov/26/a-suicide-bomber-sits-in-the-library-comic-pulled-protests-jack-gantos-dave-mckean
Normally, I think I am reasonably aware of when texts that are likely to cause offence, but clearly I didn't pick this one. My instinct was to delete my positive review in case I appeared to be condoning such an apparently appalling book. But I looked again, and I think my review still stands. I did not find the text racist. Suicide bombing is a thing, and it does tend to happen in the Middle East. So if you are going to have a suicide bomber, the chances are he or she will be brown and be located in the Middle East. Had this text been set in Europe where the bomber was swayed by Western values, I might have thought this relied upon stereotypes. But he sits in a library in his own country, surrounded by people who look like him but who are literate and happy. This is not Islam turned by Christianity, it is bad turned by good.
There is then a question of whether white English people can - or should - step into this world in their fiction. Do you have to be a member of the community you write about? And how much do you need to be a member of it? Jo Nesbo is Norwegian but he is not a detective and not a serial killer. People seem OK with that. Many writers portray a diverse society of which they may be a member, but they can only ever be one part of that diverse community. Again, people usually seem OK with this. But when a writer from a privileged background writes about a disadvantaged community, it is a difficult balancing act - is it OK if the disadvantaged community is portrayed in a wholly positive light? Is it problematic if [some members of] the disadvantaged community are portrayed in an unflattering light?
I am European and male. I have only ever lived a privileged life so it's quite possible - probable - that I will miss some sensitivities. I will read through the lenses brought by my own background and experience. So I do accept that others have found this work offensive and I can see why. But without diminishing those perspectives, those readings, I still believe my reading was valid from my background - that this was a bit twee and naive but not offensive and not seeking to stereotype Muslims or other brown people.
So that's why I am not [yet] going to delete this review, but I will give this further thought - particularly if my review itself could cause offence.