The young Berber narrator of Donkey Heart Monkey Mind has to learn the kind of perseverance and ingenuity it takes to survive in 1980s Algeria, where his people are second-class citizens in a third world country.
His tale opens when police brutally beat him for participating in a protest march. Knowing that he must leave his own country or suffer this kind of treatment forever, he begins wandering Europe and North Africa, desperately seeking some alternative. He tries his hand as a street vendor and a pickpocket, is mistaken for a drug smuggler and an Egyptian spy, and poses as Jewish to sneak into Israel and as a devout Muslim to escape notice in a prison cell in Egypt.
But he is eventually swept up in the wave of arrests following the “Black October” Algerian political riots of 1988. Drugged and shipped to a remote military prison, for months he is burned, brutalized, and held in solitary confinement. But in the end, his tale poignantly illustrates how even in the most desperate circumstances sometimes hope is found, help is offered, and inspiration strikes.