Thursday, January 14, 2010

the net is like a large endless library

"This anthology displays a large scope of reactions to the 2006, 33 day war on Lebanon. With such names as Etel Adnan, Paul Auster, Hoda Barakat, Hassan Daoud, Mahmud Darwish, Robert Fisk, Mazen Kerbaj, Zena el-Khalil, Alexandre Najjar, Hanan al-Shaykh, and Brian Whitaker, this book was praised as a landmark book. This collection of drawings and writings by prominent authors and artists is dedicated to the children that are suffering from the after effects of the 2006 war. All proceeds from the anthology go to Lebanese children's charities."

In the last week, I've ordered, from various online sources, about 20 books written by Arab and Arab diasporic writers. I ordered Lebanon, Lebanon as I would like to read on writers' perspectives on the Israeli invasion of Lebanon 2006.

I will be teaching a course in the summer on Arab Literature of the Diaspora, so I've got a lot of reading to do. Although I've got some books in mind, I haven't selected exactly which novels, short stories, memoirs, or poetry books I will include, so I thought I would read a wide variety and think so more. One of the books I ordered is

This anthology of Lebanese women fiction writers is a mix of works by well established authors with the likes of Emily Nasrallah, Hanan Sheikh and Aalawiya Sobh alongside younger women and their different preoccupations. These voices bring out the complexity and diversity of our multi-cultural society by dealing with such issues as the civil war, romanticism in a conservative society, dysfunctional families, immigration, etc.

I also ordered:

The Stone of Laughter by Hoda Barakat
This novel tells the story of Khalil, a gay man in war torn Beirut with no political or military affiliations. When the two men he loves are killed Khalil retreats into isolation paralyzed by guilt and fear. A bold and radical novel which shook preconceptions about Arab women writers.

I found these 2 books while reading a very interesting online book newsletter of Alinea Librairie Antoine in Lebanon that I stumbled on after leaving Taste of Beirut and visiting her artist friend, Mona Trad Dabaji.

I read through all the sections of the newsletter of Antoine Online and have lots more books in mind to put on my shelves. Another book I ordered is Sitt Rose Marie by Etel Adnan from Antione as I could not find it here for a good price! The Canadian Amazon edition was $100!

The editor of the newsletter, Marilyn Zahkour , wrote up a list of books that she thought were among the 10 novels by Lebanese writers that could be considered "must reads" for a national book list. This is helpful for those, like myself, who wish some windows into the complexities of Lebanon via literature.

Marilyn Zakhour writes:

"A couple of months ago, Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, implemented a four-part color coded “Revolutionary Reading Plan” whereby participants in the so called reading groups are led by a “group leader” who directs the conversation through sequences of reading selections that progress with an ideological agenda ( When I first heard about this plan I couldn’t help but wonder which books or authors would make it on our national reading list (should it be devoid of a political agenda). Here are our picks... [click on her name above to find the list]


tasteofbeirut said...

Taina: This post is so interesting! I checked Librairie Antoine's site: it looks great! Last time I checked it (about a year ago, it was bad) and you are motivating me to read these Lebanese writers including Etel Adnan (my aunt is a friend of hers, but I was never inspired to read her for some reason).
I am now curious about your background more than anything else! Why this fascination for Lebanon from a Finnish woman?

northshorewoman said...

Oh, what a small world. Lucky you that your aunt is a friend of Etel Adnan! Adnan is one of the most respected female writers, and her multiple belongings (Arab and Greek, Christian and Muslim, Lebanese, American and French, to name a few) speak of such possibilities.

It's true. What is before us is wondrous. That's why mouse eyes always come in handy.

This fascination for Lebanon from a Canadian woman of Finnish descent is simple: my children are Arabs. They are Lebanese. Their father, my husband, is Lebanese. Of course, my children are also Finnish and they are also Canadian. And, my husband is also Canadian--like me. We are a family of multiple belongings.

marilyn said...

Hi. I'm Alinea's editor, Marilyn Zakhour. First off I would like to thank you for mentioning our newsletter and hope you will continue to find our content interesting, and if you have any suggestions on how to make the newsletter more engaging I would greatly appreciate it. Also if you need help finding a particular title please feel free to e-mail me and I'll see how I can help.

northshorewoman said...

hello Marilyn, thank you for the newsletter that you write. I found the issue I looked through very informative. My only advice would be to continue highlighting Lebanese, Arab, and Middle Eastern writers, from poets to short shories and novels. As you know, there is a surge in interest in writings by Arab peoples, whether in English or in translation into English, so helping us English readers learn more about the Arab authored English language books you carry would be great. There is such a plethora of great writings and writers who many of is in the West know nothing about.

marilyn said...

Oh thank you very much. Our next issue is on Egyptian writers. Be sure and have a look at it, it should be out in a couple of weeks, but its easier to subscribe (if you haven't) and we'll email it to you.
Take care.