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The Bamboo Stalk

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  50,969 ratings  ·  8,265 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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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
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's marking me cry !
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
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
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
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. Having lived in the Middle East for almost a decade now I found this story particularly interesting and can totally understand the situations that Isa found himself in and the controversy he faced. A really interesting read.
"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
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
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
Recommends it for: readers interested in other cultures/ the question of identity/ social turbulence
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
Imen Amimer
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, pdf
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
Jomana Namavar
Apr 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books
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.
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I read the first 78 pages of this book, which has proven popular in the Arab world. It's about the position of foreign workers and outsiders in Kuwait, though the early sections are set in the Philippines, and it's constructed of short chapters. Unfortunately, I found it unengaging. The narrator describes his family's lives and his childhood and there's not yet a plot to be seen on the horizon. The characters are flat; I read an interview with the author about how we're supposed to love the narr ...more
Amena Sammani
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Did not disappoint 👌 writing, plot and characters so real you wonder if it's a true story. 10/10 would recommend
Chaimae Elajjani
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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.
Chong Ming
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
“The Bamboo Stalk” is a brave, compassionate novel about a young man who is trapped between both worlds – having to negotiate the identity politics of being born half Gulf aristocrat and half Filipino labourer. Through tales of his tribulations in Kuwait, having to face racism and marginalization, the novel gives voice to people who are similarly displaced or have multiple nationality. Saud Alsanousi reveals to us the tragic displacement of people with dual nationality, how migrants are ostraciz ...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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