After Melissa announced her reading challenge, Absent by Betool Khedairi was one of the books that was recommended in the comments. It's set in Iraq in the 1990s during the sanctions and since Khedairi is Iraqi (although she admits that she hasn't spent a lot of time in Iraqi), this is an important look at life in Iraq during the sanctions.
One of the questions in the chipper little reading guide was whether the book ended on an optimistic note. It would have if it didn't have a historical setting, but since you know that America's intervention/invasion of Iraq was coming shortly, well, it's not too optimistic.
There is a bit at the end by Khedairi about the meaning of names in Arabic and if you know the meanings of the names of the characters in the book, it does add a bit. But going off the meanings of the names isn't all that it seems to be in the book, particularly with Adel. (spoiler) Dalal never should have been sucked in by that man.