In honor of World Book Day, which is celebrated today in the U.S., I've decided to post my review of Banthology edited by Sarah Cleave. This is a collection of seven stories from the seven nations that were banned in the first version of the 2017 U.S. executive order on immigration. All the stories have been translated into English from their original languages. I received a digital copy from Edelweiss in return for this honest review.
Sarah Cleave states in her introduction that one goal of the anthology is to show that people from these countries aren't all terrorists. She also says that she hopes that the book will help to make the world "a more welcoming and gracious place". It's fair to state that every story is at least implicitly a criticism of the 2017 executive order on immigration. In the U.S, disagreement with government positions is constitutionally protected speech. If a reviewer were to take issue with my opinions about this book, that would also be constitutionally protected speech.
There were stories with strong satiric elements. I would characterize them as overtly critical of the 2017 immigration executive order. One of them was my favorite story in the anthology because it was a more complex tale with multiple themes. Satire of the executive order was only one of its purposes.
That story is "Return Ticket" by Najwa Binshatwan of Libya. I loved it because it's a magical realist story that also contained satire of rigid Islamic fundamentalism. It is written in the form of a letter by the female protagonist addressed to her grandchild who hasn't yet been born. The story deals with satiric depictions of the places where she traveled, her relationship with her husband and her attempt to return to the fictional utopian village of Schrödinger. It was presumably given this name because of the village's uncertain location like the physicist Erwin Schrödinger's theoretical cat which might be either alive or dead. It's a clever story with a well-developed viewpoint character who I found sympathetic.
I liked other stories for particular features that caused them to stand out for me. "Bird of Paradise" by Rania Mamoun of Sudan was stylistically beautiful, and "Jujube" by Ubah Cristina Ali Farah of Somalia contained an intriguing medicine woman character who would have been my preferred protagonist. Unfortunately, the viewpoint character was one of her daughters.
There were other contributions to Banthology that I disliked either because I despised all the characters, or because I felt those stories didn't make a strong enough statement.
I was attracted to the anthology by its central concept which I felt was well-intended. The stories that I liked made Banthology worthwhile particularly Binshatwan's excellent "Return Ticket".