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For many years, we were really poor, we didn't have enough food and we fought with each other a lot. I hoped my big brother, my hero, would rise and answer them ... And as a homosexual, they pretty much saved me, because they allowed me to escape to this whole other world." He has also said that "Egyptian movies saved me....
The power structures within the family were a mirror of the dictatorship Morocco was living under at that time. But my brother, the absolute monarch of our family, did nothing. I was never the same Abdellah Taïa after that night ... I cut all ties with the children in the neighborhood. I kept myself in check: no more feminine gestures, no more honeyed voice, no more hanging around women. There was already the idea of transgression through television happening in my house with my sisters.
Life for me still revolves around these three rooms. "The freedom in Egyptian cinema, where women appeared without veils and alcohol was consumed openly, pervaded his living room and gave him hope." He has said that Egyptian films were "the only culture that we had access to in Morocco, as a poor family ...
The tastes, the smells, the images, the ideas of fear and transgression are all coming from this house, this poor family that I love and hate at the same time. They taught us a lot about love, about society, about ourselves.
By the time I was 10, though no one spoke of it, I knew what happened to boys like me in our impoverished society; they were designated victims, to be used, with everyone's blessing, as easy sexual objects by frustrated men. She wanted to know if I was willing to speak freely. I never imagined it would happen like that, but I understood that was the moment of truth: The truth about me, my books, and my position in the world.
And I knew that no one would save me — not even my parents, who surely loved me. Although it was really scary and I knew that there would be many consequences, I had to do it. 'They said I am a prostitute and not a Muslim anymore, that I should apologize for the shame I brought to my mother, to my religion, to my town, to my country.
The house where I lived there was very small, only three rooms for eleven people. Taïa's older brother, Abdelk'bir, was a cultural influence on Taïa, introducing him to the music of David Bowie, James Brown, and Queen, the films of David Cronenberg, Elia Kazan, and Ang Lee, and the books of Robert Louis Stevenson, Dostoevsky, and Tawfik al-Hakim.
One room for my father, the second for my older brother, Abdelkebir, who exerted a big influence on me, and the last one for the rest of the family: my mother, my six sisters, my little brother and me. He "spent his childhood watching Egyptian movies, detailing them in a scrapbook where he collected pictures of movie stars he admired, like Faten Hamama and Souad Hosni," according to the New York Times.
Now that I have the possibility to speak, I'm not going to stop."I never hide. I know so many gay intellectuals or writers who say, 'I am not going to talk about homosexuality because it doesn't interest people.' But for me this makes no sense. It just confirmed that they were dead people who live in another world–they don't talk about us, about the reality of Morocco.' Some members of the Moroccan press, however, were "really supportive", as were the French press and some of the Arabic press, he later recalled, but "Others were just attacking, attacking, attacking without stop." The scandal over Taïa's coming-out led to "a debate about gay rights and the oppression of the individual in Morocco, and to a greater extent, the entire Arab world." Still, as of 2014, he remains "the only Moroccan intellectual to 'come out.'" Taïa's English-language publisher, Semiotext(e), describes Salvation Army as "a coming-of-age novel that narrates the story of Taïa's life with complete disclosure—from a childhood bound by family order and latent (homo)sexual tensions in the poor city of Salé, through an adolescence in Tangier charged by the young writer's attraction to his eldest brother, to his disappointing 'arrival' in the Western world to study in Geneva in adulthood—and in so doing manages to burn through the author's first-person singularity to embody the complex mélange of fear and desire projected by Arabs on Western culture, and move towards restituting their alterity." Salvation Army was described in Out Magazine as "a gay coming-of-age novel" whose "perspective–rooted in the claustrophobic world of a poor Moroccan neighborhood–lends it freshness rare in English literature." It was described by author David Ebershoff as one of the best gay books of 2009 and by Edmund White, who wrote the introduction to the American edition, as marked by "a simplicity that only intelligence and experience and wide reading can buy." Variety called it "a bold coming out, unadorned by guilt or sensationalism and directly confronting Western expectations, at least in gay circles, of Arab youth as adornments rather than equal companions."a valuable contribution not only to queer fiction but to North African diaspora literature as well.
According to a 2014 New York Times profile, Taïa "considers himself Muslim because he is very spiritual, and he believes that freedom has existed in Islam through those such as the Arab philosopher Averroes and the Iranian poet Rumi, and in works such as '1001 Nights.'" Taïa told the Times, "I don't want to dissociate myself from Islam.... I feel connected to the great writers and thinkers of Islamic civilization, the great philosophers, sociologists and poets.
I believe firmly in secularism, and I think that Muslims would be better off liberating themselves from religion.
"What I saw clearly was that this is how society functions and that no one can protect you, not even your parents. Suddenly, the familiar voices of drunken men reached us. These men, whom we all knew quite well, cried out: 'Abdellah, little girl, come down. The story of my Moroccan life that took place, over the course of 25 years, on the banks of the river Bou Regreg, in the two towns that are located at its mouth: Rabat and Salé, the first on the left bank, the other on the right bank." After a Moroccan TV channel sent a film crew to Paris to interview Taïa for a documentary on Moroccan artists living abroad, the coverage led to other media attention, making the book a bestseller.
That's when I realized I had to hide who I am."In the Morocco of the 1980s, where homosexuality did not, of course, exist, I was an effeminate little boy, a boy to be sacrificed, a humiliated body who bore upon himself every hypocrisy, everything left unsaid. Taïa became "an unlikely literary darling in the country he'd fled." Taïa has explained what happened when Le rouge du Tarbouche came out in Morocco and he was interviewed by a reporter for the French-Arab journal Tel Quel: "She wanted to do a profile on me and was interested in speaking about the themes of homosexuality in my books.