Memoir of an Early Arab Feminist

This book really took me by surprise. I was expecting the early battles of an early Arab Feminist to be quite different, but I suppose I bought a lot of the propaganda too. Khalidi was an interesting woman, knowing what she wanted and not afraid to ask for it. Her life reads more modern than I could have imagined. She lived through both world wars in a country greatly impacted by them and then moved to Palestine and felt the after effects of not being Jewish there too which makes for an interesting time for any memoir.

She writes eloquently and intended this to be a record of that interesting time for both Arabs and women, which I am grateful for. She had the fortunate circumstance to be involved in or adjacent to much of what was going on in Lebanon and Palestine, which makes this a great book for anyone looking for the Arab perspective on things like the treatment of Arabs following the demise of the Ottoman Empire or how Palestinians first resisted the nation of Israel placed in their midst. It’s a perspective on politics in the Arab world written in and about a time most Americans would hardly think of or probably deny, which honestly makes it that much more precious to me.

It was written in 1978 but only translated to English in 2016 by Khalidi’s son. I’ve read several other books that have talked about the gains of women in the 70’s in the Middle East and how they had been ripped away but it’s good to have a firsthand account of the that time and the events leading up to it. It gives me hope for all the people working to bring it back in that region while reminding me that The Handmaid’s Tale has already happened to people and that it can happen to anyone. It’s a good book for anyone to read but one that I think more Americans should read when looking at Middle Eastern history, particularly those interested in Palestine or women’s rights. Add it to Goodreads here for this year’s Women in Translation Month!

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