BOOKS by MIDDLE EASTERN FEMALE WRITERS

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A Sister to Scheherazade by Assia Djebar

A Sister to Scheherazade by Assia Djebar

About the Book: Isma and Hajila are both wives of the same man, but they are not rivals. Isma - older, vibrant, passionate, emancipated - is in stark contrast to the passive, cloistered Hajila. In alternating chapters, Isma tells her own story in the first person, and then Hajila's in the second person. She details how she escaped from the traditional restraints imposed upon the women of her country - and how, in making her escape, she condemns Hajila to those very restraints. When Hajila catches a glimpse of an unveiled woman, she realized that she, too, wants a life beyond the veil, and it is Isma who offers her the key to her own freedom.

About the Author: A noted Algerian feminist author, Assia Djebar is well known for examining the plight of Algerian women within a post-colonial context. Her works include the collection of short stories Women of Algiers in Their Apartment (1980), inspired by Delacroix’s famous The Women of Algiers (1834). These respond to the Orientalist and patriarchal structures surrounding contemporary Algerian society and attempt to demonstrate the ongoing inequality which defines women’s lives. Djebar was elected to the Académie Française – a historic organization which seeks to uphold and protect French heritage and language – in 2005, the first Magreb writer to receive this honor.

"The American Granddaugh" by I. Kachachi

"The American Granddaugh" by I. Kachachi

About the Book: At the beginning of America's occupation of Iraq, 15 years after leaving Baghdad, Zeina returns to her war-torn homeland as an interpreter for the US Army where she finds herself torn by conflicting allegiances. Her traditional grandmother, the only family member that Zeina believes she has in Iraq, disapproves of her granddaughter's involvement with the occupying forces. Whilst in Baghdad, Zeina meets two 'brothers' she knows nothing of. When she falls deeply in love with Muhaymin, a militant in the Al Mehdi Army, she begins to question all her values.

About the Author: Born and raised in Baghdad, where she studied journalism at university, Inaam Kachachi moved to Paris in 1979, where she has lived ever since. As well as regularly writing pieces for Arabic-language newspapers, Kachachi has published several novels which examine issues of displacement and homeland, as well as the brutal reality of Iraq today. Frustrated by the religious and didactic turn literature in Iraq has taken, Kachachi attempts to authentically portray complex characters in the Iraq which she experienced. Her most recent novel Tashari (2013) stretches back to the 1950s and explores the changing sociopolitical dynamic of the country through one family and their eventual dispersal across the globe. This novel was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

"The inheritance" by Sahar Khalifeh

"The inheritance" by Sahar Khalifeh

About the Book: In this powerful novel, acclaimed Palestinian author Sahar Khalifeh examines the stark realities in the lives of Palestinian women. Through her protagonist, Zeynab, born to an American mother and a Palestinian father, Khalifeh illuminates the disorienting experience of living between two worlds, and the search for identity that mirrors the Palestinians’ own quest for nationhood. Set against the emotionally charged background of the early 1990s - when the Gulf War and the Oslo Accords fundamentally shifted the political landscape - The Inheritance takes as its subject the fate of young Palestinian women who supported their families for decades working elsewhere in the Middle East. In vivid prose, Khalifeh traces the disruption caused by the Gulf War on the life of these women, as Zeynab returns to her homeland and tries to adapt to her new life on the West Bank after years spent in Kuwait.

About the Author: One of Palestine’s first and foremost feminist writers, Sahar Khalifeh is known for her complex portrayal of women in contemporary Palestinian society. Set against the background of the Palestinian occupation, Khalifeh’s works show an unflinching portrayal of the realities of life in the occupied territory from a specifically female point-of-view, giving frequently unheard women a voice in the ongoing conflict. One of her most well-known novels, The Inheritance (1997) tells the story of various Palestinian women who sacrifice everything for their men and their country only to never be acknowledged or remembered.

"Dreams of Trespass" by Fatema Mernisi

"Dreams of Trespass" by Fatema Mernisi

About the Book: ”I was born in a harem in 1940 in Fez, Morocco...” So begins Fatima Mernissi in this exotic and rich narrative of a childhood behind the iron gates of a domestic harem. In Dreams of Trespass, Mernissi weaves her own memories with the dreams and memories of the women who surrounded her in the courtyard of her youth—women who, deprived of access to the world outside, recreated it from sheer imagination. Dreams of Trespass is the provocative story of a girl confronting the mysteries of time and place, gender and sex in the recent Muslim world.

About the Author: One of the world’s leading Islamic feminists, Fatema Mernissi concentrates on Islam’s attitudes to women and the role women play within the religion in her work. Her first work Beyond the Veil (1975) is an unmissable text in the field of feminism and Middle-Eastern studies, exploring concepts of female sexuality within the historic context of Islam. Many of her works examine women’s spheres and physical spaces. Doing Daily Battle: Interviews with Moroccan Women (1991) saw her interview a range of women from different socioeconomic backgrounds and lifestyles in order to present an authentic, rounded picture of the realities of womanhood in Morocco.

https://theculturetrip.com/middle-east/articles/10-must-read-female-writers-from-the-middle-east/

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