"A challenging, powerful story of people trying to survive through some of life's harshest conditions. It captures a time and place with nuance and care."—Book Riot
"Explores questions of race, class, and freedom. This is a novel that showcases lives of extreme poverty and lavish wealth, and explores the ways in which its setting—Libya in the nineteenth century—was a particularly fraught time for women."—Words Without Borders
"An amazingly rich and fascinating novel."—Roger Allen, translator of A Sleepless Eye
"The translation is excellent: simple, accessible, and graceful."—Melanie Magidow, translator of Mortal Designs
"This beautifully written novel is a milestone because an Arab woman writer dared to investigate, describe, and expose two slaveries: that of slaves and that of women."—Fadia Faqir, author of Willow Trees Don't Weep
"The Slave Yards penetrates the soul and lives deep down in the heart."—The Arab News
"A richly-layered story with several subplots--each interesting in its own right."—Banipal
Set in late nineteenth-century Benghazi, Najwa Bin Shatwan’s powerful novel tells the story of Atiqa, the daughter of a slave woman and her white master. We meet Atiqa as a grown woman, happily married with two children and working. When her cousin Ali unexpectedly enters her life, Atiqa learns the true identity of her parents, both long deceased, and slowly builds a friendship with Ali as they share stories of their past.
We learn of Atiqa’s childhood, growing up in the “slave yards,” a makeshift encampment on the outskirts of Benghazi for Black Africans who were brought to Libya as slaves. Ali narrates the tragic life of Atiqa’s mother, Tawida, a black woman enslaved to a wealthy merchant family who finds herself the object of her master’s desires. Though such unions were common in slave-holding societies, their relationship intensifies as both come to care deeply for each other and share a bond that endures throughout their lives.
Shortlisted for the 2017 International Prize for Arabic Ficiton, Bin Shatwan’s unforgettable novel offers a window into a dark chapter of Libyan history and illuminates the lives of women with great pathos and humanity.
About the Author
Najwa Bin Shatwan is a Libyan academic and novelist. She is the author of several short story collections, plays, and three novels including The Horses' Hair and Orange Content. She was chosen as one of the thirty-nine best Arab authors under the age of forty by the Beirut39 project of the Hay Festival.
Nancy Roberts is a free-lance Arabic-to-English translator. Her literary translations include Salwa Bakr's The Man From Bashmour, Ibrahim Nasrallah’s Gaza Weddings and Time of White Horses, for which she was awarded the 2018 Sheikh Hamad Prize for Translation and International Understanding.
Series: Middle East Literature in Translation
6 x 9, 302 pages