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Billiken Bookmarks: Summer Reading Picks From SLU Authors


Looking for that next great read? In this mini-series, some of Saint Louis University’s published authors share their recommendations for memorable summer reading with their fellow staff, faculty and students. 

In this edition, Newslink turns the spotlight on a novel by SLU-Madrid's Muhisin Mutlak Rodhan, Ph.D., also known as Muhsin Al-Ramli. The President's Gardens was published to critical acclaim and was a finalist for the 2013 Booker prize for Arabic novels. Al-Ramli is also the author of Dates on My Fingers, Scattered Crumbs and The Wolf of Love and Books.

Muhsin Al-Ramli, Ph.D.

Muhsin Al-Ramli

Muhsin Al-Ramli, Ph.D.


 The President's Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli (London: MacLehose Press, 2013)

About the book
The President’s Gardens follows the lives of three friends – Ibrahim, Abdullah and Tariq – from the beginning of the Iran–Iraq War to the aftermath of the American invasion.  Abdullah loses twenty years to Iranian captivity before returning to learn the terrible truth of his birth. Tariq, the son of the local Sheik, avoids the army, and becomes a man of power and influence, able to help his friends but always careful to keep his own interests closest to his heart. Ibrahim loses a foot in the first Gulf War and his wife to cancer before taking on a menial job in the gardens of one of the president's many palaces – a job whose responsibilities will escalate beyond his wildest imaginings.
Reasons to read

The President’s Gardens shines a light on people largely ignored by the Western media: ordinary Iraqi people. It dramatizes the way in which they suffered under "the President’s” regime, and in the wars with Iran and with America and the West. It is an epic, sweeping novel that has much to say about male friendship, religion, fathers and daughters and what it means to live under a despotic regime. Al-Ramli’s multi-generational portrayal of village life in Iraq has led to companions with Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Muhsin is a born storyteller, and he has already lived nine lives, so he has many stories to tell. His writing shows a deep love and understanding for his fellow man, especially those who are humble and selfless. The President’s Gardens reveals shocking truths about Iraq, but the horror is leavened with humor, poetic insight and an appreciation of fellowship and the simple pleasures of life.

The SLU Connection
Muhsin wrote the book while teaching at SLU and it answers many questions that were posed to him by his students.
SLU Author Bio
Muhsin Al-Ramli is a writer, poet, translator and academic who was born in northern Iraq. He has lived in Madrid, Spain since 1995 and has also written the award-winning play In Search of a Living Heart, which played at theater festivals in Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Al-Ramli worked as a journalist and newspaper editor in Jordan and Iraq and co-founded the Spain-based Arabic literary magazine Alwah. His novel, The Wolf of Love and Books was a finalist for 2016's Jeque Zayed Book Award.  A member of the SLU-Madrid faculty, Al-Ramli teaches courses on 20th Century Arabic Literature, Arabic language and Islamic culture, translation and Spanish narrative works.

'Billiken Bookmarks' is a mini-feature series that will appear with new reading recommendations from Saint Louis University authors throughout July and occasionally during the academic year. In the final July 'Bookmark,' SLU staff members will share their recommendations for great books as summer winds down. Recommendations for summer reading can be sent to Newslink until July 28.