Secret Son by Laila Lalami

Secret Son

Laila Lalami

The frustration of being the teenage son of a single mother is clear enough. You wonder which way Youssef will go - into the arms of the fundamentalists, or the corruptly wealthy world of his newly discovered father. But as both turn to dust, there is yet another sting waiting.


Youssef rubbed his bare chin, the skin smooth from the close shave earlier in the morning. That had been one of the conditions of employment at the Grand Hotel in Casablanca: no facial hair. Also: no skullcaps, no tribal tattoos, no police record, no qualms about the presence of alcohol. The bellhops wore white jellabas and red fezzes, but all other employees in the hotel had to wear a suit. Bareheaded women could work anywhere, but those who wore headscarves had to work in the back office. The restaurant was called Al Minzah, but the menus were printed in French. Welcome to Morocco, Youssef thought, no need to experience the real country if a sanitized version can be had instead.

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