Which Five of the ‘100 Most Powerful Arab Women’ Are Authors?

This list came out earlier in the month, but it didn’t occur to me  that any of the women on Arabian Business’s rundown of the “100 most powerful Arab women of 2011” might be novelists or poets.

But there are a few authors, tucked in here and there.

As one would expect, most of the magazine’s “influential” are simply wealthy businesspeople, politicians, or pop stars. As Nesrin Malik noted over at The Guardian, the list is a conservative one. I don’t think the magazine’s co-ed “Power 100 2011” has come out yet, but the list will be meaningless if Prince alSaud isn’t bumped from No. 1 by Mohammed Bouazizi. And on the list of 100 influential Arab women, where is Khaled Said’s mother, Laila Marzouk?

In any case, the five authors selected by Arabian Business are:

No. 26 Rajaa Al Sanea USA/Saudi Arabia
No. 30 Liana Badr Palestine
No.31 Fatema Mernissi Morocco
No. 43 Leila Abouzeid Morocco
No. 63 Nathalie Handal New York/Paris/Palestine

I don’t question that Leila Abouzeid is a fine author. But is she one of the five most influential female authors of Arab descent in 2010-2011? If so…why?

I’m not sure how Arabian Business assesses such things—I don’t see any reference to their selection process—but they could use the criteria of number of books sold. (Since there isn’t reliable data, my guess at some top bestsellers: Ahlam Mostaghanemi, Ahdaf Soueif, Hanan al-Shaykh, Salwa Al Neimi)

They could look at number of groupies at literary events. (Ahlam Mostaghanemi)

Number of other writers trying to imitate their book. (Ghada Abdel Aal would be a candidate here; so would Raja Alsanea)

Most frequently mentioned for Nobel Prize in Literature. (Assia Djebar)

Most politically prominent. (Ahdaf Soueif)

Most celebrated in Western university curricula. (I’d guess Hanan al-Shaykh and Nawal al Saadawi)

Most popular according to a Maktoob/Yahoo survey. (Nawal al Saadawi and Ahlam Mostaghanemi)

Most award-winning children’s book and YA author. (Fatima Sharafeddine.)

Most able to get themselves talked about. (Joumana Haddad. Update: Today, the New York Times refers to her as the “Oprah of Lebanon” in a piece entitled…uh, “Sex and the Souq.”)

Women whose books are ranked near the top of the “top 100 Arabic books list,” as voted by the Arab writers union. (Ghada Samman, Ahlam Mostaghanemi, Hanan al-Shaykh)

Other women on the “top 100” list. (Laila al-Othman, Radwa Ashour, Sahar Khalifeh, Fawzia Rasheed, Emily Nasrallah, Lily Osseiran, Salwa Bakr, and Latifa Al-Zayat)

Mostaghanemi also tweets and has at least 201,395 “likers” on Facebook.

Other lists of “most influential Arab women”:

Nesrin Malik did an alternative list at The Guardian. She tops her list with Nawal al-Saadawi.

Thanks to Laila Lalami for pointing out that I missed Fatima Mernissi.