The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing
Translated by Marjolijn de Jager
Raised on Baudelaire, A Clockwork Orange, and fine Bordeaux in 1970s Lebanon, Darina Al-Joundi was encouraged by her unconventional father to defy all taboos. As the bombs fell, she lived an adolescence of excess and transgression, defying death in nightclubs. The more oppressive the country became, the more drugs and anonymous sex she had, fueling the resentment by day of the same men who would spend the night with her. As the war dies down, she begins to incur the consequences of her lifestyle. On his deathbed, her father’s last wish is for his favorite song, “Sinnerman,” by Nina Simone, to be played at his funeral instead of the traditional suras of the Koran. When she does just that, the results are catastrophic.
In this dramatic true story, Darina Al-Joundi is defiantly passionate about living her life as a liberated woman, even if it means leaving everyone and everything behind.
"Actress Al-Joundi's recollections of her unconventional youth in war-torn Beirut are heartbreaking yet humorous... With her direct prose, Al-Joundi never wallows in the horrors or overplays the absurdity, instead striking a perfect balance in this unique account."
"...beautifully taut and relentlessly unemotional.
A pitiless, steely narrative, alternately heartbreaking and compelling."
"The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing is an intense, harrowing, and deeply disturbing memoir of a woman's sustained resistance to the world around her. Darina Al-Joundi's story of her family life and youthful extremity in Beirut, of war and its unspeakable violence, and of a culture that becomes increasingly intolerant and oppressive in the name of religion, especially of women, is told with such brutal immediacy, I found myself both moved and frightened. At once personal and historical, the book is the testament of an unrepentant rebel, who, in the end, has no choice but to leave everything and everyone behind her. "
"The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing is no coming-of-age tale framed by easy, charming reflections on lessons gained from turbulent times. Instead, it’s a feat that runs closer to the bone. Al-Joundi laces scenes with minimalistic flair and lets events shine all the more in the absence of extensive explications. The result is profound immediacy. Though readers experience the shock of abuse, even when the “music” stops, there is little doubt about Al-Joundi’s ferocious resolve—right up to the promise in the book’s final line."
"Darina Al-Joundi's personal liberation became a conquest when it coincided with the civil war in Lebanon. To a merciless world she brings a merciless book."
"Born in Lebanon in 1968, Darina Al-Joundi came of age at the height of the Lebanese civil war. Her father initiated his three daughters into not only poetry and freedom of opinion, but alcohol, cigarettes, and erotic independence. By the time she reached her early twenties, she had held jobs ranging from TV actress to Red Cross worker, and had seen her native city bombed to oblivion. Al-Joundi's book reconstitutes the misadventures of her youth in a style that is at once heart-breaking and very funny."