The following is a review of J. C. Carleson’s The Tyrant’s Daughter, a remarkable new novel that blends personal and political aspects into a spellbinding story.
Here is a unique, compelling narrative that exposes what an immigrant thinks and feels and wants. Laila is the precocious 15-year-old daughter of the ruler an Arab Spring country, whether despot or benign ruler we don’t know. What we do know is that Laila, once a member of a royal family, now lives in the Washington DC suburbs with her mother and brother. Her father is dead and the family has run for its life. Through Laila’s eyes we see the struggles of a young woman of a different race and culture plopped down into a typical American suburb and typical American high school. And we glimpse sideways the politics of a war-torn country from whence she comes. Her six-year-old brother, Bastien, still dreams of becoming king one day. Her mother believes she can find a way to return to her former position as Queen.
The writer skillfully uses the minor issues and conflicts of school and family life to lead us ultimately into tribal tensions, global politics, and Machiavellian plot twists. The shadow side of America’s treatment of immigrants is vividly and graphically “outed” in this well-paced story. Don’t miss the postscript essay by Cheryl Benard, Ph.D., on “Truth in Fiction: A Commentary.” More than just a flight of fancy, this novel provides a window into serious geo-politics, women’s rights, and immigration policies. Strong story-telling, keen insights into intercultural relational dynamics, and very believable characters make The Tyrant’s Daughter a must-read for anyone who cares about modern racial and cultural conflicts.