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Extended Audio Sample Sweet Dates in Basra: A Novel, by Jessica Jiji Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (239 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jessica Jiji Narrator: Adriana Sevahn Nichols Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Just when her family should be arranging her marriage, Kathmiya Mahmoud, a young Marsh Arab maiden, is sent from her home in Iraq's idyllic countryside to the unfamiliar city of Basra, where she must survive on her paltry earnings as a servant. Her only asset—her exquisite beauty—brings more peril than peace. Worse, her mother appears to be keeping a secret about her own mysterious past, one that could threaten Kathmiya's destiny forever.

In this lost Iraq of the 1940s, a time of rich traditions and converging worlds, Kathmiya meets Shafiq, a Jewish boy whose brotherhood with his Muslim neighbor Omar proves that religion is no barrier to friendship. But in a world where loss of honor is punishable by death, the closeness that grows between Kathmiya and Shafiq becomes dangerous as a doomed love takes root. When British warplanes begin bombing Iraq and the country's long-simmering tensions explode, the power of an unbreakable boyhood bond and a transcendent love must overcome the deepening fractures of a collapsing society.

Set during the tumultuous years surrounding the Second World War, Sweet Dates in Basra is the redemptive story of two very different cultures, and a powerful reminder that no walls can confine the human spirit.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “This bittersweet story, based on the life of the author’s father, will resonate with readers who believe that Muslims and Jews can find common ground in the Middle East.”

    Library Journal

  • “Jiji does a remarkable job of evoking 1940s Iraq in her novel, from the colorful markets to the remote marshes, making for a vibrant read.”


  • “Jiji’s tale of star-crossed love is a reminder of the power of the heart over the strictures of tradition.”

    Ariel Sabar, author of My Father’s Promise

  • “Infused with love and longing, Sweet Dates in Basra weaves a colorful tapestry of life in a multilayered society with all of its charms—family life, street life, markets, foods, and celebrations—a story that is rich in detail and highly absorbing.”

    Yvette Raby, coauthor of The Lost World of the Egyptian Jews

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Robin | 2/19/2014

    " I feel like this was a book that suffered for its pacing. It dragged a bit at first, and then towards the end it sped up way too quickly for the storyline. That being said, I really enjoyed the cultural aspects in the story. It was certainly an Iraq I've never seen before. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Lea Ann | 2/17/2014

    " I wanted to like this book. I have been to Iraq and it is impossible to not be aware of its current history but I have long been fascinated with the Middle East in the 1940s. It is probably asking too much to have a novel satisfy that fascination but I still felt like the book didn't give enough of the interesting detail and spent too much time on uninteresting parts. The balance, writing and characters just seemed off. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Cynthia | 2/7/2014

    " Lovely romantic story with plenty of cultural information. Plenty to discuss about Jews, Islam, women, social classes, etc. Enough twists to keep you reading. Quick read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Jennifer | 2/6/2014

    " From my blog...[return][return][return]One country, several different cultures and World War II threatening to divide neighbours, Sweet Dates In Basra by Jessica Jiji is an intricately woven novel of the tumultuous 1940s in Iraq, specifically, in Basra and the power of love and friendship, which transcends cultural barriers. The book is an elegant story of three families, one Sunni, one Jewish, and one Midaan, friends despite the turbulent times, societal demands, and cultural differences, and one I could not put down. The story details the lives of Omar, Shafiq, and Kathmiya, as well as their families and friends, each from different cultures yet all sharing a love of their country and yearning for happiness and peace. Written with exquisitely vivid imagery, the reader is transported to Basra's marketplace, homes, and to the marshlands of Iraq, where the details of sight, sound and smell are almost tangible for the reader. Each character is richly written to the point where the reader will feel as though these families are quite real. Sweet Dates in Basra is a masterfully written tale historically rich in detail and viewpoints, deep, lasting friendships and forbidden love. Sweet Dates in Basra is a novel that draws the reader into another time and place and one that is difficult to leave. I highly recommend, as in find a copy to read now, Sweet Dates in Basra to all readers and believe this to be an excellent choice for a book discussion group. "

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