In Celebration of International Women’s Day: Egyptian Women Writers

Huda Shaarawi is at center.

Clearly, it’s time to take a hard look at gender relations.

I have a piece in Al Masry Al Youm today that looks at different strands of Egyptian feminism (and alternatives to feminism) through the lens of women’s memoirs and novels. It particularly examines the following books:

Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, by Huda Shaarawi, trans. Margot Badran

Distant View of a Minaret and Other Stories, by Alifa Rifaat, trans. Denys Johnson-Davies

Memoirs from the Women’s Prison, Nawal al-Saadawi, trans. Marilyn Booth

The Golden Chariot, Salwa Bakr, trans. Dinah Manisty

The Tent, Miral al-Tahawy, trans. Anthony Calderbank

The first modern Egyptian feminists—like Shaarawi and her compatriot Safia Zaghloul—could indeed be an inspiration to women today, as their activism was born in the cauldron of nationalist struggle against a corrupt and illegal (colonial) regime. Other women writers, such as Alifa Rifaat and Miral al-Tahawy, offer other ways to approach female characters and gender constructs. Ghada Abdel Aal’s I Want to Get Married! also presents a different way forward.

Read on here.

And, since clearly we need a strong dose of women authors, I’ll suggest other books by seven strong Egyptian women writers as gifts for the men and women you know:

Latifa al-Zayyat (1923-1966), The Open Door

Radwa Ashour, (1946 – ), Specters

Ahdaf Soueif, (1950 – ), In the Eye of the Sun

Amina Zaydan, (1966 – ), Red Wine

Iman Mersal, (1966 – ), These Are Not Oranges, My Love

Mansoura Ezz Eldin, (1976 – ), Maryam’s Maze

Ghada Abdel Aal (1978 – ), I Want to Get Married!

And Forthcoming:

So You May See, by Mona Prince (1970 – ), translated by Raphael Cohen. The promotional text promises, “Passion, unconventional romance, and the determination of a strong female character to live her life freely.” April 2011, AUC Press.