The first novel available to English readers by Fawzia Zouari, one of the most important North African authors writing today, begins with an emergency crew’s arrival at a Parisian apartment. Two emaciated young women, sisters, are brought out on stretchers. To the crowd of onlookers the women’s condition is mystifying; for the two sisters, this is the inescapable end to a tragic series of events.

Inspired by an actual news story from the French headlines, I Die by This Country introduces us to Nacéra and Amira. Casting her mind back in the midst of the opening pages’ upheaval, Nacéra pieces together her fragmentary knowledge of her parents’ lives in rural French Algeria and their immigration to Paris in the years following Algeria’s war for independence. Her memories of how both she and Amira struggled to find their place as children of immigrants reveals the enormous stress of social exclusion and identity conflicts facing immigrant youth. Nacéra and her family yearn for acceptance, but the reader sees this dream becoming increasingly unattainable.

Zouari’s frank prose and penetrating storytelling deftly relates the multigenerational experience of Franco-Algerian immigration during the last quarter of the twentieth century. As France continues, like so many western countries, to struggle with questions regarding national identity, immigration, and its colonial past, the experiences depicted in this novel resonate more than ever.

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