I'm in Seattle, Where Are You?: A Memoir Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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Longlisted for the PEN Translation Prize.
An award-winning Iraqi writer creates a new world for himself in Seattle in search of lost love.
As the US occupation of Iraq rages, novelist Mortada Gzar, a student at the University of Baghdad, has a chance encounter with Morise, an African American soldier. It’s love at first sight, a threat to them both, and a moment of self-discovery. Challenged by society’s rejection and Morise’s return to the US, Mortada takes to the page to understand himself.
In his deeply affecting memoir, Mortada interweaves tales of his childhood work as a scrap-metal collector in a war zone and the indignities faced by openly gay artists in Iraq with his impossible love story and journey to the US. Marginalized by his own society, he is surprised to discover the racism he finds in a new one. At its heart, I’m in Seattle, Where Are You? is a moving tale of love and resilience.
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|Listening Length||10 hours and 38 minutes|
|Author||Mortada Gzar, William Hutchins - translator|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||April 01, 2021|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #193,834 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#261 in LGBTQ+ Biographies (Audible Books & Originals)
#443 in Cultural & Regional Biographies (Audible Books & Originals)
#795 in Biographies of Authors
Reviewed in the United States on April 24, 2021
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Top reviews from the United States
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This might just be the oddest book I have ever encountered. The writing style is so strange, the meanderings so unusual, that they all but defy description.
As the book opens, we meet our gay Iraqi protagonist as he arrives at the Seattle airport, where he hears and then sees his long-ago black American soldier lover ... or does he? As he settles into his new life, we follow along with his meanderings in Seattle and in his memories.
Because no "look inside" feature is available as I type, here is a sample passage:
Behind me, the students who thought I might be a reincarnation of the Twelfth Imam, who lived for thirteen hundred years, began to titter as they compared Morise's complexion to black coal and to a popular type of Iraqi candy, which, because its logo was a drawing of a Black boy, Iraqis commonly called “slave's head.” My acolytes whispered in my ear, “Be careful! Today is Thursday!” At first, I didn't understand what they meant. Then I remembered that many people joke that Black Iraqis go berserk Thursday evenings and practice healing trances and spirit possession while invoking African deities. They are alleged to turn into psychotic spastics who act with uncontrollable fury and emotion. Morise didn't understand their Arabic, and that was lucky for all of us. So many things happened during the few meters I traversed to Morise that they seemed to last more than a few minutes. Sensing that time had become viscous and dense, I had trouble transiting the remaining seconds that separated me from Morise, whose name I had not yet learned...
Morise welcomed me in Arabic: “Marhaba.” Then he took a small pad form his pocket and began to flip through it, glancing at a list of words he seemed to have learned from passersby, recording them during his brigade's long journey north to Baghdad, because these words, which he pronounced in a very original manner, came from many Iraqi dialects. He was researching how to ask “How are you?” but before he found that, he uttered the Arabic equivalents of dirty words like “c***” and phrases like “son of a b****” and “let me **** your sister.” He concluded this string of foul expressions with the Arabic for “I am honored to make your acquaintance.”
Some readers will have an immediate interest in the subject matter while others will have turned away at the "colorful language" in the above passage. If you find yourself on the fence, consider choosing this book. It will provide you with that rarest of things, a truly unique reading experience.
NOTE: This book was acquired in my daughter's account and shared via Amazon's Family Library feature.
CONS: Definitely different agenda than mine, but at the same time I am accepting of other peoples views on life. And what a life the author has lead.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has an open mind and is accepting of other lifestyles which might not be their own.
I must preface this review by saying, this book is one of the most confusing books i have read. I am still not sure what occurs, but i think i have the jest of the storyline. The book goes back and forth from Iraq to Seattle, from childhood to his introduction as a gay man, to the people he knows to the people he meets and greets. The book was translated, so that may be part of the issue. Who knows? I read several chapters twice, and realize the culture gap may be part of the confusion. The confusion and the writing are a real problem for this book.
Not Recommended For Me. prisrob 03-01-2021
I enjoyed the unexpected transitions from fairly straightforward descriptions of events to thoughts, perceptions, or imaginings, and the frequent melding of the them that left me sometimes uncertain if what I was reading was factual, perceptual, or imagined.
As a middle aged, white male heterosexual U.S. citizen I cannot truly understand the experiences of violent persecution and cultural rejection for sexual orientation, the experience of living in pre and post Saddam Iraq, of having a foreign army invade and occupy your country, of having to leave it in fear and immigrate to the very country that invaded yours. But I can relate to the love story that connects all these elements, to the deep loss, fear, indignation, hope, anger, joy and acceptance the author describes. Our common humanity makes us not so very different at all.
I imagine the translation is close to the arabic words, a somewhat piercing and poetic style.
I recommend this book.
Top reviews from other countries
For most of us we do not really care what sexuality someone is, at the end of the day it comes down to whether a person is nice or not, and we do not judge them on their sexual proclivities unless they are of something such as abusing children. But of course, there are a lot of people out there who seem to have problems with people who love those of the same sex, usually citing religious reasons. Here then we find out about the author’s first gay friendship and what happened when they were found out, with abuse and humiliation. This was when Saddam Hussein still had a grip on Iraq, but as we see, what followed after he was deposed was probably much worse, as rival religious groups started to arise, with more strict and fundamentalist ideals.
We thus read of what life was like in Iraq under Hussein, and then after the liberation, with the sorts of jobs that some had to do to make ends meet, and so on. It is interesting to see how the rest of the country was treated, with Baghdad given certain dispensations as such, as we read of students residing next door to brothels. Growing up and becoming a university student are then quite prevalent here, as we meet certain characters who are classed as misfits as such, due to their eccentricities or proclivities. Contrasted with this is life in Seattle, where things are different in many ways, but not in all, after all in one country you are demonised due to your sexuality, in the other due to your colour and ethnicity.
This then makes for a very interesting read, and one that although not going into too much graphic detail of death, torture and sex makes for a read that will give you pause for thought. It is also interesting to see where the word homosexual can used for other meanings, such as terrorists being called such as that can be the only reason that they are like they are, Jews, and so on. The contrasts between two different cultures makes this great for an insight into Arab and Iraqi ways, as well as showing how religious fundamentalism can gain a grip, and as we see here, it was not the toppling of Saddam as such that caused it in Iraq, but the power vacuum that was left behind.
At the heart of this though is a journey, of a man trying to find the love of his life, who was an American soldier. This journey eventually comes to an end as we find out about the soldier, Morise.
Mortada has an unusual writing style for his memoir. He goes back and forward in time and between his life in Iraq and America. He tells his story to the reader as though he is telling his life story to another person or object. His memoir is centred upon his falling in love with an African American soldier he meets in Baghdad and later moves to Seattle to make a life with him.
I liked Mortada’s story highlighting the cultures within Iraq and Seattle. He makes a big story about his homosexuality and the differences between gay culture in Iraq and America. However his memoir is very easy to relate to regardless of your gender or sexuality. Love of all types happens between people and his book is essentially a love story. The tension slowly but steadily builds as Mortada searches high and low around Seattle to find the love of his life Morise. In the final pages there is a surprise ending that simply tugs at your heart.
I liked how Mortada explained his teenage life around Basra collecting scrap metal from battles staged in the desert, observing an abandoned tank shake and meeting a three legged woman.
I liked reading about Mortada’s university life in Baghdad, where he met Morise and their relationship flowered. I liked the historical perspective of his memoir when Mortada wrote about the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. He explained the cultures and prejudices within Iraq, not just the looking down at the people of Basra by the people of Baghdad but the differences between Shi’i and Sunni Muslims.
I liked his observations of the gay scene in Seattle and the colourful and lively people he met. I also liked his use of nicknames and how he shared a house with the Three Monkeys and was befriended by the Three Monks.
I am pleased that I read a copy of I’m in Seattle. Where Are You? - I was irritated by the backwards and forwards in time. I think Mortada wrote his memoir in this format to hook the reader in early with the love interest but I feel this was unnecessary as there were so many varied and enlightening things that happened to him before he met Morise. With his rambling story telling writing style it was so easy to forget this was a memoir/true story and think I was reading a regular mystery novel. As memoirs go, I’m in Seattle was not an inspirational read but an interesting and personal insight into another world. I found this to be a NICE read but I found nothing special or outstanding. Looking through the highlights I made on my Kindle, I found there was not a memorable quote I could use in my review. When I finished reading this book I felt as though I had met Mortada and got the measure of the man. It was a case of “nice to have met you” and I think that I’m in Seattle is an OKAY 3 star read.
I am so glad I read it but also I am very sad about the attitudes that must exist in religiously controlled societies towards various minorities.