Author is mostly known for

  • She was the first winner of the Caine prize for African writing
  • Her novel “The Translator” was one of The New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year in 2006
  • Leila’s works have been translated into twelve languages
  • Her characters offer a very different portrayal of Muslim women as oppose to the stereotypes of  the oppress muslim women
  • She has received critical praise from two of Africa’s leading contemporary writers: Ben Okri and J.M. Coetzee

Others publications


  • 2000 Caine Prize for African Writing, “The Museum”
  • 2000 Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award (shortlist), “The Translator”
  • 2002 PEN Macmillan Macmillan Silver PEN Award (shortlist), “Coloured Lights”
  • 2003 Race and Media Award (shortlist – radio drama serialization), “The Translator”
  • 2011 Short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers Prize- Europe and S.E Asia, “Lyrics Alley”
  • 2011 Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards, “Lyrics Alley”

Author whereabouts

She currently lives and lectures in Abu Dhabi. (As per her good reads profile)


 Minaret is a provocative, timely, and engaging novel about a young Muslim woman—once privileged and secular in her native land and now impoverished in London—gradually embracing her traditional faith. With her Muslim hijab and down-turned gaze, Najwa is invisible to most eyes, especially to the rich families whose houses she cleans in London. Twenty years ago, Najwa, then at university in Khartoum, would never have imagined that one day she would be a maid. An upper-class Westernized Sudanese, her dreams were to marry well and raise a family. But a coup forces the young woman and her family into political exile in London. Soon orphaned, and with her twin brother sent to jail on a drug charge, she finds solace and companionship within the Muslim community. Then Najwa meets Tamer, the intense, lonely younger brother of her employer. They find a common bond in faith and slowly, silently, begin to fall in love. Written with directness and force, Minaret is a lyric and insightful novel about Islam and an alluring glimpse into a culture Westerners are only just beginning to understand.

Key themes/Topics

  • Islam
  • Psychology, well-being and religion (Islam in this case)
  • Women in Islam
  • Muslims living in the West
  • Sudanese politics
  • Middle class lives in Sudan
  • Life of Ethiopian refugee in Sudan
  • Sudanese refugee in the UK

I found strange

Nothing I could think of! It is flawless.

I found brilliant

 The character of Najwa was just mind-blowing. I don’t know how the author manage to achieve this. But my guess would be talent, what else? I  love everything about this novel and was very disappointed when it ended…so soon! Why do I love Najwa?

  1.  Najwa is strong but she doesn’t know or realize it
  2. She is a fighter but she doesn’t know it
  3. She is independent but she doesn’t know it or feel like it but trust me, on this one, she is

The subtle notes are here and there. She has come down in the world, she has become the servant while in the past she used to be served. Somehow, she managed to get through it all. She should be celebrated , because she managed to survive. I love the role of Islam and faith in this novel. Through her faith and the Quran, she found solace, she found energy, she even found willpower to do certain things, to ask for forgiveness on behalf of her father for example. However, Najwa is not your regular heroine, most of the time, she seems weak and unable to do anything right. I know I felt angry towards her at one point ( I had forgotten that this was fiction). My best moment, reading this novel, was when Najwa said to another character that her father was not interested in the policies/politics of it all, he was just there for his business interests. What a great show of maturity from the same Najwa who refuse to go school because she has to milk a cow as an activity of integration. In Africa, Politics is a job, not an ideology, not a mission, it is mostly about the money. Please excuse my generalization, all things being equal, some people are different

What to expect

First of all, I was extremely surprised. This was my second time reading a book set in Sudan. Between my own opinion – mainly from the media – and the first book I read, I was not expecting the Sudan of the 80’s I encounter in Minaret. I confess. It was a very pleasant surprise to discover that, Najwa’s life in 1980’s Sudan was very close to my own life in Dakar a decade later  (No! my father was not in politics) .

I recommend !