Meet: Arab Women Writers at 2018 Iowa International Writing Program

Participants recently arrived at the University of Iowa’s 2018 International Writing Program (IWP), which each year gathers prominent writers from around the world. This year, because it’s Women in Translation Month (#WiTMonth), we highlight the Arab women coming from Jordan, the UAE, and Germany, as well as an Israeli woman writer of Moroccan heritage:

Haifa Abu al-Nadi

A screenwriter, fiction writer, and translator, Abu al-Nadi teaches English and translates in Amman, Jordan. She’s published two collections of short stories, and her short-short stories often examine the banal moments of life with fresh eyes.

Here, an excerpt translated by Elisabeth Jaquette:


His coffee lasts. It’s what he starts his mornings with, early, and then he drinks half a cup in the mid-afternoon. It keeps him company. Maybe the smell of it fresh is the reason he keeps sipping it, even after it’s gone cold. Or maybe he has other reasons. Maybe he feels a certain duty, a responsibility toward it. His coffee, poured into a paper cup, changes in color, shape, and size each day, depending on the kiosk he buys it from. They spend the whole day together, and then he leaves it on his desk or the first ledge he sees. He abandons it without a last sip, or even a word of farewell. He leaves the paper cup of coffee and returns to his world, trusting that another one will be waiting for him in another kiosk tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and the day after that.

Keep reading at the IWP website.

Eman Alyousuf

Alyousuf is a novelist, filmmaker, and journalist in the UAE; her Guardian of the Sun won the 2016 Emirates Novel Award and her short film Ghafa was screened at the 2017 Dubai International Film Festival. She has also published a collection of interviews with Emirati women writers.

Here, an excerpt from Guardian of the Suntranslated by Hend Saeed and M Lynx Qualey:

“Let me sow the seeds of the sun, until a new day is born!”

So said Hussein Mansour, who dreamed of a small piece of land in a country that didn’t remember his son—even if this land were a piece of the grave. He stood amongst a line of palms, in the middle of what was once farmland, from Mosul to the whole of Iraq. Life. Now it was stripped bare, and his shadow clung to sand and gravel, the clay of the first creation. The light was birthing sunflowers, gold woven into a miraculous mirage, surrounded by a cluster of children his mother called for every dawn. Things were confused in her exhausted mind, and sometimes she called to his brother or one of the eight sons who’d been buried, still nameless, in the dirt.

Keep reading at the IWP website.

Rasha Khayat

Khayat is author of Weil wir längst woanders sind (For We Are Elsewhere Now), nominated for the 2016 Klaus Michael Kühne Prize for best first novel, and translated into Arabic and French. A recipient of the Jürgen Ponto Foundation Fellowship, the Robert Bosch Foundation’s Research Fellowship, and the Siegfried-Lenz Fellowship, Khayat also writes for the theater and newspapers.

This extract from Weil wir längst woanders sind was translated by Charlotte Collins.

One day it’s just there. Silently in the night, when no one was looking, it arrived. And now it’s as if it’s always been there, the most normal thing in the world. I open the net curtains in the living room, like I do every morning. And there it is, a simple fact.

Keep reading at the IWP website.

Tehila Hakimi 

Mizrahi Hebrew-language poet Tehila Hakimi — whose parents are from Morocco — is also participating this year. Hakimi writes poetry, fiction, and graphic novels, and she’s received the Bernstein Prize for Literature and the Yehoshua Rabinowitz Foundation Prize for Literature. She works as a mechanical engineer.

Maayan Eitan translated this excerpt from “Company / A Woman in Space”:

The CEO jumped on the table and hollered at us. He said: You are not working hard enough. He jumped on the table and stabilized his legs on the receptionist’s desk. A long white desk. He said: We are losing time and you are not meeting the group’s goals.

Salah Badis

Even though it’s #WiTMonth, there’s also an accomplished male Arab writer participating this year: Salah Badis.

Badis is a poet, translator, and journalist from Algeria who’s also a founding member of Nafha magazine. Salah’s first poetry collection, ضجرالبواخر (Ship Weariness), was published in 2016.

Translations of his work on the IWP website have been done by Lina Mounzer.

From “Highest Man in the City”

You haven’t returned yet from your exodus
And the minaret being built on the corniche
for two years now is still “under construction.”