For Pride month, five queer-focused fictions — by queer authors and/or about queer characters — translated from Arabic that you can read online:
1) An excerpt from In the Spider’s Room
By Muhammad Abdelnabi, trans. Jonathan Wright
In this International Prize for Arabic Fiction-shortlisted novel, the protagonist is jailed, along with fifty other men, as part of the infamous Queen Boat arrests that targeted Egypt’s gay community.
What is love?
A nobleman fell in love with a boy who sold beer, and in pursuit of his love went wandering far from his family. Malicious gossip about him spread far and wide. The nobleman had properties and estates, which he sold to buy beer from the boy. After selling his property he descended into poverty, but his love for the boy increased. Although people constantly provided him with bread as alms, he was always hungry, because he sold all the bread to buy more beer.
By Mortada Gzar, trans. Claire C. Jacobson
In this story of sexual desire by Mortada Gzar, an Iraqi student at a gay bar hooks up with an American soldier who drives home the side effects of war.
It’s got to be the tenth time this has happened to me. I go out into the back alley of this bar to smoke and he approaches me with a greeting. “Cheers!” he says, clinking his glass against mine.
3) An excerpt from Mina
By Sahar Mandour, trans. Alice Guthrie
In this excerpt from Sahar Mandour’s novel Mina, a Lebanese actress is blindsided when she’s outed by the press.
Mina comes out of the bathroom in her short white bathrobe, hurries toward her bedroom, darts in, shuts the door behind her.
4) An excerpt from Always Coca-Cola
By Alexandra Chreiteh, trans. Michelle Hartman
This novel is about gender identity, sexuality, menstruation, pregnancy, sexual assault, identity, marriage, and more.
When my mother was pregnant with me, she had only one craving. That craving was for Coca-Cola.
By Raji Bathish, trans. Suneela Mubayi
An internal monologue interrupted by advertisements and other messages from the “real” world that turns into a letter to the narrator’s parents.
What hurts me in all this is that my parents will be forced to bury me before themselves.
Bonus: She He Me
By Amahl Khouri, translated from the Arabic and French by Amahl Khouri
She He Me is a documentary play based on interviews with several transgender people in the Arab world. Witty and affecting, and in many ways, surprising, it focuses on the challenges encountered and discoveries made by three unique individuals who “just want to be themselves,” in the words of director Lina Abyad.
From the play:
OMAR as ASSHOLE 2
Oh wow. A trans Algerian! That’s amazing. And your Swedish is amazing! Can I ask you a question?