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City Lights welcomes Rachel Aspden! She discusses her new book, Generation Revolution: On the Front Line
Between Tradition and Change in the Middle East, from Other Press.
In 2011 during the Arab Spring, the government of Egypt transformed from a dictatorship to a democratic presidency. The chaos that resulted during this time erupted from a decade of social and political unrest among the Egyptian people. GENERATION REVOLUTION is the story of the millennial generation in Egypt during the Arab Spring, from the perspective of several different young men and women whose different views explore the way Egypt has been shaped before, during, and after the 2011 end of Hosni Mubarak’s presidency.
Aspden spent years in Egypt during the beginning of unrest in 2003 and moved back again during the years following post-revolution in 2011. Aspden offers a window into the world of the Middle East during the Arab Spring, before, during, and after Egypt’s chaotic overthrow of their President Mubarak and his successor, the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi. Through Aspden’s curious and unbiased gaze, readers hear the Egyptian voices of Amr, an atheist university-educated software engineer, Amal, a fiercely independent young woman who lives on her own in Cairo which is practically unheard of, Ayman, a devout Muslim teenager who chooses to follow ultraconservative Salafi Islam to the surprise of his middle-class parents, and Mazen, a fan of TV preacher Amr Khaled who finds himself on the front lines during the revolution. With these perspectives along with others’, readers learn that from atheists to ultra-religious, from conservative young men to liberal young women, the growing generation of Egypt is vastly different, struggling to find a place for various voices during chaotic government upheaval. Aspden writes from the front lines of this new generation, sharing their stories and harbouring their own doubts, resentments, and hope for what is to come.
Rachel Aspden became literary editor of the New Statesman in 2006, at the age of 26. She now works at the Guardian, and also writes on a freelance basis for the New Statesman, Observer, Prospect and Think magazine (Qatar). She lived in Cairo in 2003-4 and worked as an editor and reporter on the English-language Cairo Times. Since then, from her UK base, she has travelled to and reported from across the region and the wider Muslim world: Yemen, the UAE, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Pakistan and north India. In 2010, she was awarded a year-long travelling fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to research activists working to fight extremism within Islam. Following the Arab spring uprisings in 2011, she moved back to Egypt to research this book. She is currently based in London and reports for the Guardian.