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The Bamboo Stalk

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  55,366 ratings  ·  8,697 reviews
Daring and bold, The Bamboo Stalk takes an unflinching look at the universal struggles of identity, race, and class as they intersect between two disparate societies: Kuwait and the Philippines.

Josephine comes to Kuwait from the Philippines to work as a maid, where she meets Rashid, a spoiled but kind-hearted only son. Josephine, with all the wide-eyed naivety of youth, b
Hardcover, 377 pages
Published April 23rd 2015 by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (first published May 2012)
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Nasser Al-Saadi السنعوسي جعل مقدمة المترجم جزءاً من الرواية.. يبدو أننا وقعنا جميعاً بالفخ x'D…moreالسنعوسي جعل مقدمة المترجم جزءاً من الرواية.. يبدو أننا وقعنا جميعاً بالفخ x'D(less)

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Ahmad Sharabiani
ساق البامبو = The Bamboo Stalk, سعود السنعوسی = Saud Alsanousi

Josephine comes to Kuwait from the Philippines to work as a maid, where she meets Rashid, a spoiled only son.

Josephine, with all the wide-eyed naivety of youth, believes she has found true love. But when she becomes pregnant, and with the rumble of war growing ever louder, Rashid abandons her and sends her back home with her baby son, Jose. Brought up struggling with his dual identity, Jose clings to the hope of returning to his fath
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the story of Isa, born to a Kuwaiti father and a Filipino mother, the domestic help and how that dynamic plays out within the Middle Eastern family and the impact on Isa growing up.

Living in the Middle East for more than a decade now I have seen this scenario from a distance so I found it really interesting to read and understand from a closer perspective.

I love cultural reads and would totally recommend this.
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm literally in tears right now !! i can't really explain the emotions tht i can't understand myself ! this book is really amazing and ...it's marking me cry ! ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Continuing my focus on the Middle East, this is my first read from Kuwait! José is the child of a mother from the Philippines who worked for a family in Kuwait when she became pregnant, and the father is the son of the family for which she is working. José's grown up being told he will go live with his father in Kuwait when he turns 18, and this is his journey between cultures, languages, and religions. He also has to navigate a situation where his Kuwaiti family doesn't want to acknowledge him ...more
Faroukh Naseem
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Firstly let me just say: If you are looking for Arab fiction, you don’t need my review to convince you to pick this up, just get hold of a copy and start reading.
#theguywiththebookreview presents The Bamboo Stalk
Saud Alsanousi takes us through the struggles of Isa(in Kuwait)/Jesus(in Philippines), a Kuwaiti-Filipino boy torn apart by identity crisis. Back in Philippines he’s known as the Kuwaiti and in Kuwait he isn’t accepted as one since he looks more Pinoy than Kuwaiti.
A conflict between c
Susan Abulhawa
Feb 06, 2015 rated it liked it
The following review was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on September 27, 2015:

The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi is now in English, a celebrated novel in the Arabic-speaking world. Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, it reads like a memoir of the protagonist, José Mendoza, whose name is also Isa Al-Tarouf - one name for each aspect of his identity.
José/Isa is born to a Filipino domestic servant and the only son of her employer, Gh
So this is my first required university read and I am so glad I enjoyed it. The writing was smooth and intricate which had the story easily flowing. The words were simple enough to understand yet they held such deep meanings. This story broke my heart and made me feel various feelings from good to bad. All in all it was a good book with much diversity and honesty from them lives of those who are considered ‘lesser’ in our society.
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent insight into life in Kuwait and The Philippines.

I've just finished this and I was pretty impressed by the way the author managed to show the full extent of Jose's position as a Philippino/Kuwaiti, both in the Philippines and in Kuwait. I was also surprised to find that this is in fact a translation from Arabic, so full marks to Jonathan Wright, the translator.

Jose's mother, Josephine, was a Philippina maid in the Al-Tarouf household in Kuwait, when she fell in love with Rashid, the
"I was a bamboo plant... You cut off a piece of the stalk and plant it without roots in any piece of ground. Before long the stalk sprouts new roots and starts to grow again in the new ground, with no past, no memory."

THE BAMBOO STALK by Saud Alsanousi, tr. from the Arabic (Kuwait) by Jonathan Wright, 2012 Arabic / 2015 English.

This coming-of-age novel follows young José/Isa, the child of Rashid, a Kuwaiti, and Josephine, a Filipina. José is raised in The Philippines by his aunt, grandfather, an
This sad but engaging novel is about mixed cultures focusing on the treatment of minorities in Kuwaiti.
Jose aka Isa is the son of an upper class Kuwaiti who secretly married his Filipina maid.
His family forces his father to divorce his mother and send her along with baby Jose back to the Philippines. For a while the father sends money but then it stops. Jose's mother raises him with the hope that one day he will return to Kuwait.
Tne first part of the novel takes places in the Philippines. I w
The first half of the book meanders along telling the back story of José Mendoza born to a Filipino mother who worked as a maid in the house of his Kuwaiti father. Thrown out by the family, Jose bides his time in Manilla waiting for the opportunity to return to Kuwait, be reunited with his father's family and live in the land of plenty. The inevitable occurs and Jose, now Isa Al-Tarouf, returns to a frosty welcome as the bastard child of a now dead father.
The book then focuses on the Kuwaiti's
Kathleen McKim
Dec 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have been waiting for this book to come out in English since 2012 when it won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Finally, finally, I received the English translation, made possible because of the prize.

Having lived in Kuwait for 8 years, I was intensely curious to see how a Kuwaiti man would tell the story of a boy whose father was Kuwaiti and whose mother, although the two were legally married, was still the result of the father's union with the family's Filipina maid.

As it turns out
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Novel set in Kuwait and The Philippines (“..epic in its breadth and story..”)

This is an incredible story of migration and rootlessness and what it means “to belong”. It is epic in its breadth and story, and explores how two unequal cultures are inextricably linked through economic need. And still, it is so much more.

Josephine, originally from the Philippines, is working in Kuwait for the al-Tarouf family. The father is long dead, the matriarch, stuck in traditional values, lives with her four ch
Lars K Jensen
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: middle-east
This is the best new book I've read in many years. I came across it by chance in a bookstore. When I checked Goodreads, I saw that it had an average rating score of 4.26 after nearly 23,000 reviews. Now that's a book you take home with you.

Reading 'The Bamboo Stalk' brought back a lot of pleasant memories to me; about how marvelous can be to read a great book and how it feels to be at work or some other place and look forwarding to getting home, opening the book and find out what happens next to
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arabic, gifts
UPDATE, 6 FEB 2016

An English version is now available.


The Arabic Booker Prize Winner of 2013 is in short the personal diaspora of lost identity, or to be more accurate DUAL IDENTITY. The protagonist here is always stamped by his OTHER origins. Wherever he goes, he is told that he belongs to the other side. Both sides think of the other as a disgrace, although both sides hold more similarities between them than differences. But it became common behavior that when it comes to diffe
Jan 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For me, it was the kind of book that I couldn't say whether it is really really good or average good! All I know is that while reading it, I felt serene. I loved Jose (Isa); he has a kind heart& spirit. I loved his perspective and analysis of life. I loved how the difficult situations, he suffered from, did not blacken or harden his heart towards his relatives.

Tje flow was smooth and the description of the characters was fine. (Sometimes deep and others not)

I wonder how the Kuwaitis citizens
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: بالعربي
So, I may be a little bit biased for my 5-star rating. I was so emotionally invested in reading, I can't think clearly. It opened wounds I wanted to hide their invisible scars. The identity crisis Josè Mendosa has may sound weird to some people, they would argue that the story plot is unrealistic, a khaleeji drama or simply an exaggeration from the author's imagination but it described how lost I feel. The protagonist is a product of transnational marriage which one parent is a GCC citizen. For ...more
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jose, Hose, Eissa, all these are names given to a baby boy born to a Kuwaiti rich man and a Philippine woman, a baby who has not chosen to be born and whose life has been imposed upon just like he has been imposed on it. As a baby, Eissa is thrown out from the house of his rich Kuwaiti family along with his father, and he finds only his mother's land to embrace him. Throughout the book, Eissa is torn between his feelings towards his mother's land, where he suffers from poverty, misery and depriv ...more
Pallavi Bichu
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Of the 11 books I’ve read so far, this one was by far my favorite!

What a delight to stumble upon a GCC author, one who describes the world I grew up in, or atleast in close proximity to. The novel excels at dealing with difficult questions on identity, and the reader never feels like either side of the protagonist’s dual nationality is treated with a lack of understanding- a very tough task considering the stark differences between the cultures in question. I could imagine everything- the Kuwai
Imen Amimer
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pdf, 2016
One of the best novels added to my favorite works i have ever read. A work full of wisdom and lessons. It showes the descrimination within one society, how a person may be neglected by his family just because he enherited features of other ethnicity. Due to race, skin, face or language changes, a person could be descriminated. Identity crisis is one of the themes tackled in the novel, the protagonist does not know who really is, he is confused about his name; Jose or Isaa or Hose.
The work shows
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arabic, novels
I read this book in its original language, Arabic, but I'm reviewing it in English because it's been translated and I want all my English-speaking friends here to read it too.

This book is about José, the son of a maid from the Philippines and her employer's son, a rich Kuwaiti man. The book explores the story of a man lost between two homelands, the one he rejects and the other that rejects him. It highlights the elitism, racism and the absurdity of the social hierarchy of Kuwait, and of Arabs i
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in 2013. The story of a young boy with a Christian name, an Arab surname, a Filipino face and a Kuwaiti passport. It took me a while to finish reading this because I found it so slow-paced in the first half. It got a bit better afterwards but didn't come up much with my expectations. Though I must say, it gave me a good laugh when he named the tortoise as Inang Choleng.

Dhari Buyabes
Jul 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The novel speaks so much about Kuwait and the struggles one can face in Kuwait. It's interesting how it discusses the mysterious power "family name" holds in Kuwait. Also, human rights issues and the "Bidoon" are important themes. The setting is very realistic; the language is simple, but it is rich with paradoxes and philosophical statements. I especially like how the novel is creatively formed. ...more
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well deserved recipient of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Since in I live in the gulf region, I probably related to this book more than many people will. I found reading it painful at times as the main protagonist struggles through real identity issues and with people who are often not very kind. I admire the vulnerability of the author.
Sana Abdulla
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Issa Altarouf/ Jose Mendoza is born to a Kuwaiti father and a Filipina mother, spends his childhood and early youth in poverty with his mother's family struggling for an identity, he returns to Kuwait as a Kuwaiti citizen but people can not see beyond his features. Good storytelling, plain writing and cleverly named book sections. Issa's character is too passive he is almost a spectator. ...more
Sajeda Barni
Jul 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this was an overrated book but it's indeed an excellent book ! It highlights the contradictions in a "religious community". in addition to that, the book took me to know more about the Philippines so literally a very worthy book to read. Thanks Saoud for this book! ...more
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best novel I have ever read so far!
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was perfect.
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book showed me the other side. It made me hate myself. It made me despise myself for some reason. It made me cry for Isa. I fell in love with the narrator.
M. Azad
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You know it's the best book you've ever read when you want to read it again the moment you finished reading it. ...more
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Saud Al-Sanousi is a Kuwaiti novelist and journalist, born in 1981. His work has appeared in a number of Kuwaiti publications, including Al-Watan newspaper and Al-Arabi, Al-Kuwait and Al-Abwab magazines. He currently writes for Al-Qabas newspaper. His first novel THE PRISONER OF MIRRORS was published in 2010 and won the fourth Laila al-Othman Prize, a prestigious award for novels and short stories ...more

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