Silence is a Sense by Layla Alammar
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Featured on The Thread: 'Silence Is A Sense' works to dispel the terrible abstractions of Syria's civil war
A young woman sits in her apartment, watching the small daily dramas of her neighbors across the way. She is an outsider, a mute voyeur, safe behind her windows, and she sees it all—the sex, the fights, the happy and unhappy families. Journeying from her war-torn Syrian homeland to this unnamed British city has traumatized her into silence, and her only connection to the world is the column she writes for a magazine under the pseudonym “the Voiceless,” where she tries to explain the refugee experience without sensationalizing it—or revealing anything about herself.
Gradually, though, the boundaries of her world expand. She ventures to the corner store, to a bookstore and a laundromat, and to a gathering at a nearby mosque. And it isn’t long before she finds herself involved in her neighbors’ lives. When an anti-Muslim hate crime rattles the neighborhood, she has to make a choice: Will she remain a voiceless observer, or become an active participant in a community that, despite her best efforts, is quickly becoming her own?
Layla AlAmmar, a Kuwaiti-American writer and brilliant student of Arab literature, delivers here a complex and fluid book about memory, revolution, loss, and safety. Most of all, Silence is a Sense reminds us just how fundamental human connection is to survival.