Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail
Reading Group Discussion Questions
- Malika, whose name means "Queen," considered herself a princess, although she wasn't one by birth. The world view she has in the beginning of the book obviously changes drastically as the story progresses. At what moment does her romantic vision of her life begin to break down?
- Adopted at the age of five by the King of Morocco, Malika came to regard him as a father figure. How does she reconcile the fact that this man who had taken her into his home is eventually responsible for the death of her father and the imprisonment of her family? What are her feelings towards her father? Does she blame him for her family's ordeal?
- The Oufkir family is forced to suffer many indignities and hardships in prison. Did these details give you a specific sense of what it is like to be in prison or did you, as the reader, still feel separated from their experiences?
- Malika and her family strive to keep some normalcy in their lives by celebrating birthdays and other special holidays while imprisoned. It is as though they were opting to create the best possible world for themselves instead of just opting for survival. What do we learn about them from these actions? What heroine from world literature does Malika most remind you of?
- Malika created The Story to entertain her family and to occupy their minds, fabricating the tale of a Russian prince to which she added new chapters each night for ten years. What did The Story come to mean to the family? Why was it so important to them?
- Malika wanted to grow up to be a film actress. What elements of her story seem the most cinematic, the ones that would translate the best to the big screen? Do you think that her desire to be an actress actually helped her through this ordeal?
- What part of the Oufkir family's story did you find the most harrowing? The most uplifting?
- Do you consider this book to be a memoir, an autobiography or a political story? Discuss what you learned about Morocco and the politics of the country.
- How does the relationship between Malika and her family change as their years in prison progress? How do they manage to help one another even when, for more than a decade, they are confined to solitary cells?
- What thoughts and feelings did you come away with after reading this book?