Ambiguous Freedom in “The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing”
Freedom means different things to different people and people go to various means to find liberation. In “The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing,” Darina Al-Joundi lives her life on the idea that nothing should be forbidden in order to be free, but she is really controlled even more by her quest for liberation.
Darina’s Papa is one influence in her life that is controlling her. Any time Darina attempts to make her own decision, her father forces her to rebel. Darina said, “No, I don’t want your whiskey, I’m observing Ramadan.” Her father becomes angry and she then says, “He came rushing at me, grabbed me with one hand, and with the other forced me to drink the whiskey.” Darina has no freedom to make any kind of religious decision because of her father. He says, “Look daughters, look how they’re down on the ground. You..you are never to offer your ass up to the sky. Offer it to men as much as you want, but not to the good Lord. You may drink, go out, lose your virginity, but in my house, I don’t ever want to see anyone pray or fast.” Freedom is making decisions for yourself and letting no one stop you and Darina is controlled by her father instead of truly being liberated.
Her need to feel free and rebel is controlling as well. She is consumed and trapped by the constant need to rebel in drastic ways in order to feel free. An example of this is when she says, “My virginity was weighing on me heavily and I felt I needed to rid myself of it as a burdensome object, not by making love, but in some other way.” Darina feels that even the act of making love is in some way taking away from her freedom by being controlled by the other person. She solves this by taking her own virginity so that no one else can have that control over her. Darina also “started doing coke daily, two dollars a gram.” She began a dangerous addiction as a form of freedom. Her association of rebellion and freedom causes her to make drastic and possibly dangerous decisions. The rebellious needs compromise the non-rebellious decisions she may have made on her own.
Darina wants to be liberated and live a life free from control, but she is still controlled and is not free at all. Her father’s oppressing influence on her decisions and her pressing need to rebel from the social norm causes Darina’s true decisions to never be known. Darinia makes decisions based on other influences besides her own thoughts which prevents her from ever being free from control.
Connections from Egypt to Iraq and Beyond in Samia Serageldin’s The Naqib’s Daughter
As I read Samia Serageldin’s The Naqib’s Daughter, the question arose of why she chose to write about the French invasion of Egypt. As I read this book and received the opportunity to speak to the author about the book, I made a connection with an event in our country. Samia Serageldin spoke to me about her inspiration for The Naqib’s Daughter being the war in Iraq following the September 11th attacks on the United States.
In The Naqib’s Daughter, the French believe the Egyptians need their influence. There is “no doubt they would be welcomed by the Egyptians, to whom they would come as liberators rather than conquerors” (2). The French believed they were helping the Egyptians by bringing modernity to the country and helping them develop and prosper as a country. The Egyptians, however, did not feel the same. On the contrary, they felt as though they were being oppressed and being destroyed. The people of Cairo felt as if their traditions and ways of life were being completely destroyed as if they were losing their very identity. In The Naqib’s Daughter, after Madame Verdier mentions how beautiful Zeinab has become by conforming to the French vision of beauty, Zeinab “didn’t think she looked pretty; her mother would have said she looked thin and drawn, and tried to stuff her with sweetmeats” (106). Zeinab and other Egyptians began to question the French and did not like when others traded their native traditions for the new “modern” ones of the French.
The many similarities between the Iraq War that followed the attacks on September 11th and the invasion of the French in the novel directly reflect the author’s inspiration from recent history to write this historical fiction. Similar propaganda techniques were used by America as were used by the French in this book. When the troops went into Iraq, the United States’ intention was for the good of the Iraqi people and not to harm them. President George Bush even mentioned in a press conference that “No troops would be withdrawn from Iraq as long as he was president because it was what the Iraqi people wanted” (Lynch).
Bonaparte attempted to keep the people of Cairo believing the French were there to bring the greatness of the Western culture to the people of Egypt. The Egyptians were to believe that the French were there to bring all the liberating qualities from the west such as democracy and freedom from their oppressors. The Americans’ main purposes were to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction and then to root a democratic system in Iraq to free them from their oppressing and controlling leaders. However, fear and a feeling of oppression from the Americans arose in the Iraqi people much as the people of Cairo. The Iraqi people began to question the motives of the Americans as well. When asked for the three main reasons for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, less than 2% chose “to bring democracy to Iraq” and the majority 76% chose “to control Iraqi oil”(Lynch). As in The Naqib’s Daughter, doubt and a feeling of oppression or destruction comes with many country invasions. The feelings felt by the Egyptians were the same as the ones of the Iraqi people and the inspiration for The Naqib’s Daughter becomes quite evident when connected to events today.
Lynch, Marc. “What the Iraqi People Want.” Abu Aardvark. N.p., 23 August 2006. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. <http://abuaardvark.typepad.com/abuaardvark/2006/08/what_the_iraqi_.html>.