Arab Women's Lives Retold: Exploring Identity Through Writing

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A collection of pioneering essays challenging the prevailing stereotypes of Middle Eastern women through the analysis of first-person writing.

Examining late twentieth-century autobiographical writing by Arab women novelists, poets, and artists, this anthology explores the ways in which Arab women have portrayed and created their identities within differing social environments. Even as the collection dismantles standard notions of Arab female subservience, the works presented here go well beyond the confines of those traditional boundaries. The book explores the many routes Arab women writers have taken to speak to each other, to their readers, and to the world at large. Drawing from a rich body of literature, the essays collectively attest to the surprisingly lively and committed roles Arab women play in varied geographic regions, at home and abroad. These recent writings assess how the interplay between individual, private, ethnic identity and the collective, public, global world of politics has impacted Arab women's rights.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Positive responses to Golley's (English, critical theory & women's studies, American Univ. of Sharjah) first anthology, Reading Arab Women's Autobiographies: Shahrazad Tells Her Story(2003), led to the creation of the current work. Golley and contributing artists, scholars, and educators dispel the myth of the sequestered Arab woman veiled in seclusion and lacking autonomy. In several essays, they examine the autobiographical writing of contemporary Muslim women from Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Jordan, many of whom now live as immigrants in the United States. Four main themes are found to dominate the writing: cultural dichotomy, transnationalism, communal identity, and personal vs. political expression. In two of the most compelling chapters, Mireille Astore explains the sources for her intensely physical photography, while Mohja Kahf and Suheir Hammad astutely describe through their poetry conflicts between Muslim and white American cultures. Other featured notable writers include Nawal el-Saadawi, Assia Djebar, and Ahdaf Soueif. With an inexhaustible list of references; recommended for academic libraries.
—Nedra Crowe-Evers

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Nawar Al-Hassan Golley is assistant professor of English, critical theory, and women's studies in the Department of Language and Literature at the American University of Sharjah. She is the author of Reading Arab Women's Autobiographies: Shahrazad Tells Her Story.
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Table of Contents

Illustrations     xiii
Foreword   Miriam Cooke     xv
Acknowledgments     xix
Contributors     xxi
Introduction: Contemporary Arab Women's Autobiographical Writings   Nawar Al-Hassan Golley     xxv
Artistic Works Discussed     xxxv
Autobiographical Writings and Cultural Hybridity
Passage Through the Harem: Historicizing a Western Obsession in Leila Ahmed's A Border Passage: From Cairo to America-a Woman's Journey   Bernadette Andrea     3
Dismembering the Gaze: Speleology and Vivisection in Assia Djebar's L'amour, la fantasia   Karina Eileraas     16
Yasmina, an Autodiegetic Character: Herstory and History   Benaouda Lebdai     35
Autobiographical Writings and Transnationalism
Poetic Geographies: Interracial Insurgency in Arab American Autobiographical Spaces   Keith Feldman     51
Postnational Ethics, Postcolonial Politics: Raimonda Tawil's: My Home, My Prison   Jamil Khader     71
A Muslim Woman Writes Back: Leila Abouzeid's: Return to Childhood: The Memoir of a Modern Moroccan Woman   Pauline Homsi Vinson     90
Autobiographical Writings and Communal Identity
Voices Across the Frontier: Fatima Mernissi's: Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood   Filiz Turhan-Swenson     111
ToUndo What the North Has Done: Fragments of a Nation and Arab Collectivism in the Fiction of Ahdaf Soueif   Mrinalini Chakravorty     129
Weaving Poetic Autobiographies: Individual and Communal Identities in the Poetry of Mohja Kahf and Suheir Hammad   Carol Fadda-Conrey     155
The Personal and the Political in Autobiographical Writings
Arab Women Write the Trauma of Imprisonment and Exile   Daphne M. Grace     181
A Journey of Belonging: A Global(ized) Self Finds Peace   Nawar Al-Hassan Golley   Ahmad Al-Issa     201
Art, Autobiography and the Maternal Abject   Mireille Astore     222
References     241
Index     259
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