Publication Date: Feb 07, 2017
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Generation Revolution unravels the complex forces shaping the lives of four young Egyptians on the eve and in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, and what their stories mean for the future of the Middle East.
In 2003, Rachel Aspden arrived in Egypt as a 23-year-old journalist. She found a country on the brink of change. The two-thirds of Egypt’s 8 million citizens under the age of 30 were stifled, broken and frustrated, caught between a dictatorship that had nothing to offer them and their autocratic parents’ generation, defined by tradition and obedience.
In January 2011, the young people’s patience ran out. They thought the revolution that followed would change everything. But as violence escalated, the economy collapsed and as the united front against Mubarak shattered into sectarianism, many found themselves at a loss.
Following the stories of four young Egyptians – Amr the atheist software engineer, Amal the village girl who defied her family and her entire community, Ayman the one-time religious extremist and Ruqayah the would-be teenage martyr – Generation Revolution exposes the failure of the Arab Spring and shines new light on those left in the wake of its lost promise.
Excerpt from Generation Revolution
Amal didn’t want to wear a khimar but she had no desire to be beaten or insulted by her teachers, her classmates or anyone else.
“Dad, I really need to wear the khimar,” she told her father as soon as she got home. Her father was kind, and he had far less rigid beliefs about religion than her teachers. But he believed as strongly as every-one else in the clear hierarchy of authority that governed society from top to bottom. Just as faithful Muslims submitted to God, the people to the president, farmers and workers to the elite, women to men, his authority in the family was never questioned.
“No,” he said. “You wear a headscarf, and that’s quite enough. There’s no reason for anything more.” The way things were already done, in his eyes, was the way they should stay.
“But Dad,” Amal began. Her stomach flipped over at the thought of facing the teachers and boys without a khimar.
“I said no,” he repeated firmly.
Amal had to save her pocket money, hoarding the few pounds her father gave her each week until she had enough to buy the big, ugly cloak. She hid it from her parents, and put it on when she went to school in the mornings. She was learning that the punishment for honesty was harsh, and that the best way around inflexible rules was outward compliance and surreptitious disobedience. To survive, she would have to sacrifice her own desires and beliefs to fulfill the expec-tations of the society around her. But unlike many of her friends she still, secretly, kept her desire for freedom.
“Generation Revolution is an excellent social history of Egypt’s persistent pathologies, as well as a universal story about the difficulties of changing deeply ingrained societal attitudes.” —New York Times Book Review
“Rachel Aspden’s Generation Revolution offers sharp insight into how the youth movement came together and why it fell apart…Chronicling the experiences of four young Egyptians, the book provides fascinating detail but no easy answers.” —Washington Post
“A sobering but necessary education.” —Publishers Weekly
“An earnest eyewitness account of a nation in tumult.”—Kirkus Reviews
“What makes Generation Revolution so interesting is its weaving together of national political unrest with the micro-level dramas of daily life (…) at a time when social and cultural mores have been undergoing rapid shifts.” —The Standard UK
“The Arab spring has yielded a bumper crop of books about youth across the region, and Generation Revolution is among its more fruitful reads. The story of a wheel come full circle, and a sobering tale for anyone with an interest in Egypt’s future.” —The Guardian UK