Escape To Aswan: An Interview With Author Amal Sedky-Winter

Escape to Aswan, written by Amal Sedky-Winter, is a book that carries messages of love, turmoil, and finding a sense of belonging.

Amal’s publicist describes the book as a political thriller that tells the stories of the clashes of culture and class in the Arab world. The book follows Salma on her visit to Cairo. During her time there, she is caught in the machinations of a new radical Islamist group with a vendetta against her father. So, as you can see, the story is thrilling from start to finish.

The book has a heartfelt message. It’s bound to be entertaining for readers who enjoy many genres, including drama, historical fiction, and even memoirs. So, it was a pleasure to talk with the author and get her insight into the inspiration and the lessons she drew from creating the book. Escape to Aswan can be found online and in all major bookstores right now. So, here’s the conversation I had with Amal.

Theresa: What served as your inspiration for the novel?

Amal: I was born bicultural; my mother is American, and my father is Egyptian. I grew up in Egypt and came to college in the States. Then, I became a psychologist in California, where I raised my two daughters. In my 50s, I went back to Cairo for seven years to teach at the American University, which is not far from my family home. With having a foot in both worlds since childhood and my training in psychology, I am drawn to translating between the cultures of the Middle East and the Western world. Unfortunately, many people in both worlds are misled by ill-informed perceptions that lead to mutual suspiciousness. I believe storytelling is the most effective way of fighting against these misconceptions. I worked hard to create an accessible, engaging story that is also informative. In fact, reviewers have appreciated the result.

Theresa: Your book follows the synchrony of international relations. So, how do you think this can be applied metaphorically to the state of our nation? And how do we currently relate to other countries? 

Amal: As to the state of our nation — we are deplorably ignorant in our arrogance. To prepare themselves for the actions of stronger, often “oppressive” powers, weaker ones acquire deep knowledge that’s sometimes tainted with conspiracy theories. Then, they feel they don’t have anything to learn from the “Other.” You won’t believe how many examples I have, from the sublime to the ridiculous ones.

Theresa: Your book discusses marriage between two people of different religions. Is this something you still see as a prevalent issue in current times? If yes, are there any steps to take to get more acceptance? 

Amal: As with what seems like everything else these days, there is a major division between globalists and tribalists. On one hand, religion is being replaced by more spiritual thought. So globalists are marrying people of multiple faiths and beliefs. (It turns out they are more concerned with potential partners’ political thoughts.) As to the tribalists who are frightened and repelled by a globalized world, they stick to the known, no matter what.

Theresa: The relationship between Salma and her father seems troubled. Do you think it’s because he views her success and desire to live in a different country as an insult to how he provided for her as a child and/or a reflection of the things he did not achieve?

Amal: The former, not the latter. Hani is too narcissistic to see her as likely to be more or even as successful as he is.

Theresa: In your book, during a high-tension scene, Salma is given grace once it is understood who her father is. Is there symbolism behind this scene in regards to people’s “power level” and the things they are allowed to “get away with”? 

Amal: Actually, this is a universal phenomenon. It’s just more exaggerated in a class-stratified, authoritarian society — coming soon to your hometown movie house.

Theresa: In one excerpt, we see this quote: “He’s had some difficult times this year, but he’d give his two eyes for you. Don’t worry about anything. We all love you,” she said as she ushered Salma through the front door.” Did you intend this to be a pivotal moment for Salma’s character to signify the difference between the struggles she and her father face? 

Amal: No. It’s just a very common way in which members of Arab families maintain the peace.

Amal’s Escape To Aswan is riveting and can have a powerful message for readers of all cultures and backgrounds. So, if you check it out, come back and let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Featured image via Sasha Prasastika on Pexels


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