Middle East/North African Lit discussion

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2019 > Discussion of "Our Women on the Ground"

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message 1: by Marcia, Arabic Literature (in English) (new)

Marcia Lynx | 155 comments Mod
I'm very excited about "Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World," ed. Zahra Hankir, which came out in August of this year.

Among the many brilliant contributors is Lina Attallah, who used to be my boss, and has a relentlessly experimental attitude toward news that I've not found anywhere else. We talked about this collection in Episode 33 of the Bulaq podcast:

https://arabist.net/bulaq/33

I also highlighted some of the essays that were translated from Arabic (by the editor's mom) during "Women in Translation Month":

https://arablit.org/2019/08/05/launch...

I think this collection makes for an important read for all sorts of reasons! So much of writing about conflict journalism is macho-oriented, written by parachute journalists who don't have deep ties to the conflict they're reporting on. This collection is such a critical intervention into the genre.

I really hope you enjoy it and look forward to discussing the essays!


message 2: by Nan (new)

Nan Carter | 150 comments I’m slowly read this book.


message 3: by Marcia, Arabic Literature (in English) (new)

Marcia Lynx | 155 comments Mod
Nan wrote: "I’m slowly read this book."

Look forward to your thoughts on any of the essays. Of course it's not one that has to be read sequentially.


message 4: by Robert (new)

Robert Sharples | 5 comments I got the book from my local library and will start reading today. I'll looking forward to sharing my thoughts on it


message 5: by Robert (new)

Robert Sharples | 5 comments I really enjoyed reading this collection of essays. I just put some of my thoughts below. Would welcome hearing any comments.

- I agree with Marcia that it was less macho than some war reporting and you really get the sense it's written by women who have a local connection with the country they're writing about. It reminded me a little of BBC's 'From Our Own Correspondent' - how the writers foreground their personal connection with the story and lots of vignettes.

- One interesting theme was how expectations of women in some Arab societies makes reporting difficult. In order to do their work they need to transgress some of the restrictions on them - I like the story in Amira El Sharif's chapter about her father stopping her visiting the souq in the afternoon to take photos - it seems such as simple, harmless activity.

- I also really enjoyed Lina Attalah's chapter about growing up in a patriarchal society and in a patriarchal society - and how she learnt to challenge these barriers.

- I thought some of the chapters highlighted how difficult it is to be a reporter in difficult circumstances. Some of the journalists say that they can't keep an impartial distance from their subjects. Instead, like in personal friends and helpers. I wonder if this partly because they are local women with a connection to the people they are reporting on.

-If I have a criticism, it's that despite the book's title, it is still written from a fairly Western perspective with most of the writers working for US or European news organisations. In the final chapter, the writer reports on some Saudi people's ambivalent attitudes towards terror. It's strange that the writer feels a need to disavow this position. I wonder if she could simply have reported without comment.


message 6: by Marcia, Arabic Literature (in English) (new)

Marcia Lynx | 155 comments Mod
Yes, it's true, it remains predominantly Western ... although I think maybe Zahra was in some ways trying to get at this between-ness many of the reporters felt; they are meant to be "impartial / objective" but they are not parachute journalists, but are instead people who feel part of the place they're reporting on.

I'd also love to discuss that final essay, which was the only one I shook my head through.

Robert wrote: "I really enjoyed reading this collection of essays. I just put some of my thoughts below. Would welcome hearing any comments.


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