Ahlan wa sahlan!
Thank you for joining in with us in the Year of the Middle Eastern Reading Challenge (YMERC).
As promised, I will begin each month with:
- A book by a Middle Eastern author
- A graphic novel by a Middle Eastern author and/or Middle Eastern illustrator
- A new Arabic song to listen to throughout the month
At the end of each month, I’ll post:
- My reviews on the books and graphic novels of the month
- A Middle Eastern movie or TV show that I enjoyed that month
#YMERC BOOK OF THE MONTH
Iran Awakening: One Woman’s Journey to Reclaim Her Life and Country by Shirin Ebadi, Azadeh Moaveni
The moving, inspiring memoir of one of the great women of our times, Shirin Ebadi, winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize and advocate for the oppressed, whose spirit has remained strong in the face of political persecution and despite the challenges she has faced raising a family while pursuing her work.
Best known in this country as the lawyer working tirelessly on behalf of Canadian photojournalist, Zara Kazemi–raped, tortured and murdered in Iran–Dr. Ebadi offers us a vivid picture of the struggles of one woman against the system. The book movingly chronicles her childhood in a loving, untraditional family, her upbringing before the Revolution in 1979 that toppled the Shah, her marriage and her religious faith, as well as her life as a mother and lawyer battling an oppressive regime in the courts while bringing up her girls at home.
Outspoken, controversial, Shirin Ebadi is one of the most fascinating women today. She rose quickly to become the first female judge in the country; but when the religious authorities declared women unfit to serve as judges she was demoted to clerk in the courtroom she had once presided over. She eventually fought her way back as a human rights lawyer, defending women and children in politically charged cases that most lawyers were afraid to represent. She has been arrested and been the target of assassination, but through it all has spoken out with quiet bravery on behalf of the victims of injustice and discrimination and become a powerful voice for change, almost universally embraced as a hero.
Her memoir is a gripping story–a must-read for anyone interested in Zara Kazemi’s case, in the life of a remarkable woman, or in understanding the political and religious upheaval in our world.
#YMERC GRAPHIC NOVEL OF THE MONTH
A Child in Palestine by Naji al-Ali, Joe Sacco
Naji al-Ali grew up in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh in the south Lebanese city of Sidon, where his gift for drawing was discovered by the Palestinian poet Ghassan Kanafani in the late 1950s. Early the following decade he left for Kuwait, embarking on a thirty-year career that would see his cartoons published daily in newspapers from Cairo to Beirut, London to Paris.
Resolutely independent and unaligned to any political party, Naji al-Ali strove to speak to and for the ordinary Arab people; the pointed satire of his stark, symbolic cartoons brought him widespread renown.
Through his most celebrated creation, the witness-child Handala, al-Ali criticized the brutality of Israeli occupation, the venality and corruption of the regimes in the region, and the suffering of the Palestinian people, earning him many powerful enemies and the soubriquet the Palestinian Malcolm X.
For the first time in book form, A Child in Palestine presents the work of one of the Arab world s greatest cartoonists, revered throughout the region for his outspokenness, honesty and humanity. That was when the character Handala was born. The young, barefoot Handala was a symbol of my childhood. He was the age I was when I had left Palestine and, in a sense, I am still that age today and I feel that I can recall and sense every bush, every stone, every house and every tree I passed when I was a child in Palestine. The character of Handala was a sort of icon that protected my soul from falling whenever I felt sluggish or I was ignoring my duty. That child was like a splash of fresh water on my forehead, bringing me to attention and keeping me from error and loss. He was the arrow of the compass, pointing steadily towards Palestine. Not just Palestine in geographical terms, but Palestine in its humanitarian sense the symbol of a just cause, whether it is located in Egypt, Vietnam or South Africa. Naji al-Ali, in conversation with Radwa Ashour
#YMERC ARABIC SONG OF THE MONTH
ilkul 3am bitjawaz “Everyone’s Getting Married” by Bashar Murad
As an Arab living in Jerusalem, he says he’s constantly challenging many of the conservative elements of his society.
“I try to be respectful to people – but also try not to.”
As an example, he mentions his song Everyone’s Getting Married, which riffs on his society’s traditional view of marriage.
“We’re always being asked, ‘When are you getting married?’ and we’ve created this concept that if you’re not married by the age of 30, that means there’s something wrong with you.”
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*The beautiful blog graphic is done by liv_does.