Opening the Gates: A Century of Arab Feminist Writing

Margot Badran, Editor, Miriam Cooke, Editor Indiana University Press $24.95 (448p) ISBN 978-0-253-20577-3
This collection of stories, speeches, essays, poems and memoirs bears fierce testimony to a tradition of brave Arab feminist writing in the face of subjugation by a Muslim patriarchy. Palestinian Fadwa Tuqan's father demanded that she compose political poetry yet kept her secluded from the outside world. Zainaba (last name omitted), a nurse from Mauritania, West Africa, who herself underwent female circumcision, or clitoridectomy, says, ``It is not a sin if it is not done, but it is better if it is,'' and exhorts a group of midwives to modify the disfigurement (``A woman with no clitoris is like a mud wall, a piece of cardboard, without spark, without goals, without desire. . . . It must not be all cut off!'') and to use antiseptics. And Egyptian Alifa Rifaat, who wrote in the secrecy of her bathroom until her husband's death, offers stories about a girl undergoing a clitoridectomy and about a bride who fears her husband will discover she isn't a virgin so she inserts powdered glass inside herself to draw blood on her wedding night. Egyptians Ihsan Assal's and Andree Chedid's fiction depicts, respectively, a husband who incarcerates his ``recalcitrant'' young wife with the permission of the courts and a 60-year-old woman who plots the murder of her husband. An editorial by Egyptian Amina Said laments the return of the veil. Badran translated and edited Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, 1879-1924 ; Cooke is the author of War's Other Voices: Women Writers in the Lebanese Civil War. (June)
Reviewed on: 10/01/1990
Release date: 10/01/1990
Hardcover - 412 pages - 978-0-253-31121-4
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