From a woman’s unconventional views on arranged marriages to the banning of one man’s books from Syria, these are the five Middle Eastern authors you need to know whose life experiences have inspired fascinating works which enlighten, inform and inspire.
Named as one of the 500 most influential Muslim women in the United Kingdom, Janmohamed is the celebrated British writer behind Love In A Headscarf and the award winning blogger of Spirit21. She has written articles for The Times, The Guardian and The National, alongside being a regular contributor to the BBC. Her interest lies specifically in the lives of Muslim women and the perception of Islam in the West. Janmohamed’s parents migrated to the UK from Tanzania in 1964 and she grew up in a liberal Islamic household, which propelled her to challenge the notion that every Muslim woman lives in a state of oppression in her blog.
Yasmine El Rashidi
This Egyptian writer, who is based in Cairo, has been on our radar since she published her eye-opening debut, Chronicle of a Last Summer. Her book tells the story behind Egypt’s 2011 revolution which overthrew President Hosni Mubarak through the eyes of a young girl and later a grown woman. El Rashidi writes from experience, that much is clear when reading her vivid descriptions of the turmoil, censorship and survival that her character undergoes in the book. She is also a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books and is an editor of the Middle East arts and culture quarterly Bidoun.
The award-winning Syrian author, screenwriter and poet keeps it real through his vivid examination of the Syrian government. His tales are often told through fictional characters, like the well-to-do women in his 2006 novel In Praise Of Hatred, which was both shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction and banned in Syria for its condemnation of the government. His books always serve as a commentary on the repetition of a vicious political cycle, as well as the power of the human spirit. Khalifa’s new novel No Knives in the Kitchen of this City follows one family and their struggle through the brutality of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Aleppo.
This Palestinian/American writer resides in Pennsylvania. She’s a human rights activist and founder of a non-government organisation called Playgrounds For Palestine. She was born in Kuwait many years after her parents, who were born in Jerusalem, fled their home after her father was threatened at gunpoint. Though this did not serve as a comfortable point in time for Abulhawa who passed between relatives during her parents separation, she eventually regained her footing and graduated in Biomedical science from USC before turning to journalism as a form of expression. Her debut novel Mornings In Jenin is a poignant tale set in the Eighties revolving around one family’s love, loss and survival in the West bank city of Palestine.
One of Turkey’s most prominent novelists, Pamuk is also an academic, screenwriter and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature. The author’s genius is evident in works such as The White Castle, The Black Book and in The Museum Of Innocence; a story of family honour, religious beliefs and love set in Istanbul in 1975. His work constantly explores the quest of identity through the merging traditions of the East and West. Pamuk’s international acclaim is down to his in-depth knowledge of both historical occurrences and religious beliefs in his home country.