Men Don’t Cry invites us into the home of Mourad Chennoun in Nice, where his father spends his days fixing things in the backyard, his mother bemoans the loss of her natal village in Algeria, and the
name Dounia is taboo.
When his father has a stroke, Mourad is forced to rise above his fear of becoming an overweight bachelor, tied down to home by his mother’s cooking, and take steps to bridge the gulf between his family and estranged sister Dounia.
This quest takes him to the Paris suburbs where he starts his teaching career, falls into the world of undocumented Algerian toyboys and discovers that Dounia has become a staunch feminist, aspiring politician and fierce assimilationist.
Can Mourad adapt to his new, fast-paced Parisian life and uphold his family’s values? A poignant coming-of-age story from the widely-acclaimed author of Just Like Tomorrow.
There’s something about translated books, they have a distinctive writing style that belongs just to this class of books, that makes it fun to read. The blurb for this book basically gives everything away and in the end I found the story to be very dull and I think it’s this way by design.
It’s always entertaining reading family dynamics and this story didn’t fail when it come to showcasing how Mourad, our protagonist, the narrator of the story was brought up and how his upbringing affected his character and sense of self.
Mourad is the last born and as a person he’s quite dull. He is overcoddled by his overbearing and manipulative mother, very timid, doesn’t speak up for himself and subscribes to patriarchal shit that in turn makes him misgoynistic without him being aware of that fact. You would think away from his family in Paris, staying with his free-spirited cousin Miloud, he would embrace himself and find out other things about himself, but instead he remains hesistant and it becomes clear that Mourad is afraid to truly live.
Mina the middle child is the archetype of a parent pleaser, to the point it seems she doesn’t have a mind of her own and just does whatever she is told, a true sheep, whose hatred for her elder sister, I believe is more jealousy as Dounia was brave enough to live her life according to her own terms, whereas Mina followed the path her mother laid out for her.
Dounia the eldest, is the black-sheep in the family and the most interesting person in Men Don’t Cry, because she managed to crave her own path. The story clearly depicted that her family never truly understood Dounia or tried to be there for her, yet she was the only one at fault in the book.
However, the plot kinda lost it, because for someone who was a radical feminist, identified as a muslim and an Algerian immigrant, Dounia’s political alignment were off because it contradicted everything she stood for, so it didn’t make sense. It felt like something that was put to justify Mourad’s hate and misogynistic ways of thinking.
I loved that this story shined light a bit on immigrants who shuffled between their lifes in the country they had made their home and in the country they’re born. I enjoyed reading the dialogue between various characters, it gave more life to the story. It allowed the expression of various point of views and gives a certain feel that captures the envrions of the story.
In the end, I don’t think there was anything different, everything remained the same, a steretypical story, where Mourad never evolved, making it simply an account of the life of an average man, who is witty in thoughts but not in the way he lived his life, nothing spectacular or worthy of note.
Even though, I never felt like DNF-ing this book, I don’t know if I can say I liked it, there’s just something off putting about it, I can’t place.