Summer holidays are the ideal time to (re)immerse yourself in a good book. To help you choose from this best-selling collection of books that accompanies the arrival of the sunny days, Kawa has selected 5 inspiring Arab women-authors who have helped to defend the rights of women around the world.
Ghada Al-Samman, a Syrian writer, novelist, and journalist, is one of the most prolific authors of her generation. With more than forty books published, ranging from novels to short stories, poetry, and journalistic articles, the writer is considered one of the most influential voices on gender equality in the Arab world. Born in 1942 in Damascus, Syria, Ghada Al-Samman has a strong literary talent and draws some of her inspiration from the Lebanese War, which she experienced from within. With “Your eyes are my destiny” in 1965, “Nightmares of Beirut” in 1977 and “The Masked Ball of the Dead” in 2003, the novelist succeeded in achieving what many of her colleagues/convenors hoped at the time: to become an Arab writer recognized on the international scene.
Nawal El Saadawi
She is the “Simone de Beauvoir of the Arab world”. Nawal El Saadawi is an Egyptian writer and doctor who has gained considerable notoriety through her work on topics related to gender equality and patriarchal oppression, such as “Woman at Zero Degree” in 1975 and “Ferdaous, a Voice in Hell” in 2007. The second most-translated Arab author after Naghib Mahfouz, she founded and became president of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association. She has also won numerous awards, including the Council of Europe’s North-South Award and the Inana International Award.
Many know her by her pen name: Assia Djebar. However, before the publication in 1957 of her first novel, La soif, Assia Djebar was born Fatima-Zohra Imalayen. A choice of anonymity that took her to the top, however, by becoming a feminist author renowned for her work exploring the plight of Algerian women in a post-colonial context. In addition to her fight for the feminist cause, Assia Djerba remains the first writer in North Africa and the fifth woman in the world to be elected in 2005 to the French Academy.
A journalist in Baghdad, Iraq, where she was born, Inaam Kachachachi wrote articles in the Arab press for a long time before entering the world of fiction. Finally, it was only after her departure for France that her talent was revealed, notably via her second novel The American Granddaughter, published in 2008, and nominated for the Arab Booker Award. She also wrote Tashari, nominated for the International Arab Fiction Prize in 2014, which addresses the tragedy of Iraqi displacement in recent decades, through the story of a woman doctor working in rural southern Iraq in the 1950s.
Whatever the medium – fiction or real novels, press articles – Sahar Khalifeh remains one of the best-known Palestinian authors, dealing with all forms of discrimination and oppression against Arab women. Thanks to her numerous works translated into English, French, German and Hebrew, Sahar Khalifeh has received numerous awards as one of the most prestigious, the French Simone de Beauvoir Prize.