Reviews by Ghassan Rubeiz on Memoirs Written by Arab Women
By: Ghassan Rubeiz / Contributing Writer
Commentary on two books by Arab women: Glass Cedars by Kathy Saad Feghali, N D Press, 2023; Stranger In My Own Land by Fida Jiryis, C Hurst, 2022.
This summer I read these two family-oriented books authored by two talented Arab women. The styles differ remarkably; one is a novel, and the other is a memoir. The novel shines in its development of characters and personal relations; whereas the memoir excels as a historical, stage-by-stage coverage of the Palestine tragedy.
Glass Cedars by Kathy Saad Feghali
Kathy Saad Feghali writes about Maya’s sudden departure from Lebanon, at the earlier stage of the civil war. Maya, a young adult, leaves for California where she is a graduate student. Abroad, she builds a successful career in industrial psychology. She returns to Lebanon at the end of the civil war to contribute to the rebuilding of her beloved country. Feghali weaves together the stories of a small network of Lebanese women in the Diaspora. Unity of Lebanon and the national duty of its citizens stand out as powerful themes. Conscious of sectarian dynamics in Lebanon’s history and culture, the author treats this subject with authenticity and insight. If you are a Lebanese living abroad with an obsessive feeling of nostalgia for your home in Lebanon, Glass Cedars may be a partial cure for you.
Stranger In My Own Land by Fida Jiryis
In her memoir, Stranger in My Own Land, Fida Jiryis writes about her early life in Lebanon as a refugee from Palestine. As a successful professional, she returns to her village in the Galilee region, now part of northern Israel.
If you are looking for a way to understand Palestinian suffering over the past century, Stranger in My Own Land is a good choice. This book would be a thoughtful gift for anyone who is sympathetic to Palestinian suffering but avoids material too critical of Israelis. Despite the immense suffering, the memoir displays a disciplined emotional tone. There is no hatred; it is a call from a Palestinian seeking justice.
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