Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Women's Tales: Audra

~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
by Audra of Unabridged Chick
~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~

Over my Christmas holiday, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go abroad on a Mediterranean cruise, and I stopped in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Palestine, and Egypt.  It was really quite incredible, seeing these countries I had read about, and my visits were way too brief.

I've always been interested in Islam and Islamic culture and a number of the countries I visited had large Muslim populations. I'm reading Muslim Women Reformers by Ida Lichter and in honor of that and my trip, Vee kindly invited me to write a guest post about some of my favorite books about Islam and women. 

Below is my very brief, very subjective, annotated list of recommendations.  This is hardly comprehensive and I'd love to hear about your favorites!

First, if you want to learn more about Islam, I can't recommend enough Karen Armstrong's Islam: A Short History.  Karen Armstrong is a marvelous religious scholar, highly readable, and she writes a nuanced but brief book that provides a wonderful introduction to what Islam is and isn't about.

Still, if you want to just plunge on, I suggest Diana Abu-Jaber.  One of my hands down, all-time favorite writers, Abu-Jaber  manages some of the sexiest food descriptions, ever.  I dare you to read her and not find yourself starving.  For fiction, I recommend Crescent, which is set during the Persian Gulf War of the early 1990s.  She writes about love, displacement, identity, womanhood, and being Muslim in America.  Her autobiography, The Language of Baklava, is a wonderful memoir that explores Muslim and American identities (and the ways they do and don't overlap), and each chapter features a delicious beloved recipe. 

V├łnus Khoury-Ghata's She Says is a bilingual edition of poetry -- French on one side, English on the other.  This volume isn't specifically about being a Muslim woman but what I love about this book is Khoury-Ghata's essay on being an Arabic speaker writing poetry in French (that's translated into English).  It's very moving and thought-provoking, exploring the idea of identity through language, and specifically what it means to be Lebanese.

Women of Sand and Myrrh: A Novel by Hanan Al-Shaykh is a powerful, moving novel set in an unnamed Muslim country.  Following four women with very different lives and experiences, it reveals the various ways religion and society stifle and oppress.  The characters are challenging -- they aren't all likable -- but they're very real.  The topics faced are universe: love, desire, family, a private income, and I think much of what Al-Shaykh explores in this book reflects some of what is happening here in the U.S. right now.

I'm a Beacon Press fangirl -- if they publish it, I'm all over it --  and I find they have fabulous, even-handed publications on a variety of timely, often controversial topics. 

Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak is a fantastic collection of essays, poems, and creative non-fiction from American Muslim women.  Purposely featuring the works of activists, these writings highlight the experiences of women who are vocal about criticizing, celebrating, and radicalizing their faith. 

And because I love Beacon Press  I'm including Love in a Headscarf by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed. I haven't read this one yet but I'm looking forward to it; again, as a Beacon Press book, I expect it to be well-written and thought provoking.  (The link includes a 20-page preview for those curious!) 

As I said, brief and subjective.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on these books or any others!


~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~
by Audra of Unabridged Chick
~-~-~-~-~ guest ~-~-~-~-~

~*~ Women's Tales schedule ~*~

Imagination Designs
Images from: Lovelytocu