Leila Aboulela

Posted in 2023-2024 Readings and Talks

Leila Aboulela Headshot

October 3, 2023 at 7:00PM ET

Location: Copley Formal Lounge

Accommodation requests related to a disability should be made by September 26th to Patricia Guzman, 202-687-6294, pg654@georgetown.edu. A good faith effort will be made to fulfill requests made after September 26th.

Excerpt from River Spirit

–Leila Aboulela

The river was her language. Eleven-year-old Akuany stood in the shallow, humming Nile, listening to what the water was saying, believing. Reeds moved in the breeze. The river smelled of fish; its surface was silk. Akuany pressed her feet in the sticky mud, looked down at the shifting cloth that covered her hips. The raised tribal decorations on her stomach were now in the water. She bent her knees, and her breasts became wet. They were uncomfortable these days, the areoles soft and stretched. Older boys pinched them and laughed even though it pained her. Women looked at her with sympathy. Motherless child, her toddler brother, Bol, perched on her hip. They thought her mature for her age, but here in the water she was carefree, teasing the fish because they were too slippery to catch. The river was a place to draw water and wash, to fish and set sail, and for her it was more, the spirit of who she was. The place that kept her safe when they raided the village.

On the bank she could see Yaseen, the young merchant from Khartoum, her father’s guest, sitting reading. Bol was squatting near him, reaching to clasp his ebony prayer beads. A wisp of smoke rose over the village, more than a wisp. She saw it, but it did not alarm her at first. Hitting her palms against the water, she could hear Bol babbling, the merchant saying something to him in return. The woman who was washing her clothes admonished her daughter. None of them heard the horses neighing, the huts catching fire, the screams of those who were speared and those who were shackled to be driven away to the slave markets farther north.

Continue reading from River Spirit at Literary Hub.

Read more about Leila Aboulela.

Watch the Reading