Alaa al-Aswany was a dentist before he was a writer. In fact, his practice was in the Yacoubian Building, which is in Cairo and where his famous novel takes place. Long before he formally joined the protest movement, he spoke out frequently in relation to Egypt’s leader Hosni Mubarak. He is grateful that he had such a presence in society. He theorizes that this appeal with the public helped keep him out of jail or possibly worse. If he cannot find another platform to protest on, al-Aswany is confident that he will turn to social media and that his movement will still flourish. He says that a politician has to work within certain limitations as to be careful not to overstep boundaries or irritate the public, but that a writer “must be a dreamer”. This is true, as a writer can write about anything they choose, especially in fiction, but a politician is limited to certain topics that they are permitted to discuss. Writers have free reign.
People today, especially youth, are typically more likely to pick up a book as opposed to listening to the news or paying attention to politicians. Youth want to learn as much as they can from every side of the story and I believe that novels like these, although fictional, really help illuminate another side to the story that is not shown often to the mainstream public audience.