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review 2016-11-13 20:11
Excellent Daughters by Katherine Zoepf
Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World - Katherine Zoepf

This is an engaging, readable account of a young journalist’s experiences in the Arab world, and particularly the women she met. It’s not as fascinating or information-packed as Geraldine Brooks’s fantastic Nine Parts of Desire, which you should absolutely read if you have any interest at all in women’s lives in the Middle East. But it is fun and informative, a great introduction to the topic. And from her writing, Zoepf seems adept at breaking through cultural barriers to connect with individuals, with the result that the women she profiles sound like people you might actually meet.

Each topic has a different overarching topic and location, with Saudi Arabia and Syria getting the most page time, while Lebanon, the UAE and Egypt get a chapter each. Other reviewers have commented that the book overall seems more “excellent daughters” than “bringing change.” I’d say it’s about evenly split. Saudi Arabia in particular feels static in Zoepf’s depiction, and those chapters mostly cover life as it is, focusing on topics like female friendship and matchmaking (though with some hints of change). Other chapters deal more with social problems and change: the Arab Spring, particularly in Egypt; honor killings in Syria; young women migrating to the UAE in search of work, a practice that would have been unthinkable not long ago. But it’s true that the change that’s chronicled here is incremental.

Meanwhile, the book is very readable, and if you’ve read many stories in the New York Times over the years, you might just recognize some of it (in one case I did, which made me feel great about my memory!), since the book is drawn from the author’s research as a reporter. But it works smoothly as a whole, and though I recognized some of the material, the book never felt cribbed together from articles.

Overall, while this isn’t the most in-depth account you’ll read, it is still a good book. It’s a bit like having a conversation with a smart, perceptive, nonjudgmental and extremely well-traveled friend. I recommend it.

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url 2016-10-04 21:21
OT: Meet the hero who stays in Syria to care for its abandoned cats

Even in war-torn Syria, animals have brave protectors. Have you heard the story of the “Cat Man of Aleppo”?


His name is Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel. In a life now long gone, he was an electrician. Today, he’s the guardian angel to more than 150 stray and abandoned cats.


Read more here.

Source: www.care2.com/causes/meet-the-hero-who-stays-in-syria-to-care-for-its-abandoned-cats.html
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review 2016-08-03 23:53
The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir
The Arab of the Future: A Graphic Memoir - Riad Sattouf
This was another one of those random grabs off the graphic novel shelf of my local library branch. Then a few weeks ago it turned up on the top 1o list of graphic novels or manga that have stuck with you of a friend whose opinion I really trust ...so I guess it was time for me to read this.
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review 2016-05-08 22:41
Damascus Nights by Rafik Schami
Damascus Nights - Rafik Schami

A renowned storyteller loses his voice, and his seven friends must each tell him a story to bring it back. This is a colorful, Arabian Nights sort of tale, set in 1959 Syria, where an oppressive government occasionally infringes on the world of the eight old men who spend every evening together and rally around to bring back Salim’s voice. The characters’ stories have a fairytale quality, even when they claim to be telling stories from their own pasts, and are enjoyable and imaginative.


This isn’t a book I loved or one I expect to prove memorable. It doesn’t have much plot in the frame story, and there’s more insight into the human condition generally than into any of its specific characters. But it is a pleasant read, and a strong and easily readable translation (it is perhaps more easily translated to English than most Middle Eastern literature; Schami moved to Germany as a young man and originally wrote this one in German). Worth a read for lovers of fairytales or Middle Eastern fiction.

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text 2015-11-24 18:30
Levant Fever: True stories from Syria's underground - Free on US Amazon
Levant Fever: True stories from Syria's underground - Wajdy Mustafa

Levant Fever: True stories from Syria's underground





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