December 2004, Vol. 6 No. 2
AUB Professor Undertakes Project on Syrian Media Development
New Director Takes over CASAR
Creative Lebanon Competition
FEA Launches Year with Student/Faculty Concert
Lebanese Flag Day
Sami Cortas Assumes New Responsibilities
“Now and Again” Program Launches Play Reading Series
Outburst of Iftars Upholds Ramadan Tradition
Visit of Congressman Robert Ney to AUB
A New MA Business Program
Campus Construction and Gate Update
On November 8, the AUB Women’s League hosted a lecture by Lebanese author Emily Nasrallah, entitled “Pioneer Women of My Country.” Helen Bayer, a distinguished member of the League, introduced the speaker as the woman whose writings have long promoted female intellectual empowerment in her attempt to incite constructive action against women’s oppression in the Arab world.
Apologizing for her self-admittedly unrefined English accent, Nasrallah first spoke about her books, which have been translated into more than three languages. The latest of them are Southern Winds and Those Memories, recently translated into Finnish. The author explained that her writings revolve around four themes that interest and affect her the most. For example, she tackled the subject of migration in her novels, Birds of September, Flight against Time, and Sleeping Ember. Another theme, she said, was men’s imputation of women’s inferiority and the condition of women in contemporary Arab societies, which she addressed in her controversial book, The Hostage, written three decades ago and still banned in some Arab countries.
The irony of war purging society of its concept of heroism, hence transforming heroes into a loitering horde of victims, was the third subject of interest to the author, who elaborated on it in her novel, A House Not Her Own. Then to remove herself from the stifling context of war, Nasrallah found leeway for her expansive imagination by producing works of children’s literature, such as Zicco, the story about a cat that since its publication has sold more than 40,000 copies in Thailand alone.
Moving on to the second part of her lecture, the author began by stating her dislike of the feminism label. She claimed she never belonged to that camp and insisted that her interest in women’s issues was always related to the mere fact that she, herself, is a woman. She then went on to narrate main stations in the lives of the pioneer Arab women who had most influenced her, many of whom she had visited and spoken to in the last years of their lives.
Dipping back into the Lebanese past, Nasrallah first talked about the political influence of Sitt Nasab, the renowned Emir Fakhr El-Din’s mother, described by historians as “the most beautiful chapter in the history of Lebanese princesses.” She then talked about the highly gifted and educated Warda Al-Yazigy, author of The Rose Garden, one of the most celebrated poetry collections in the Arabic literary cannon. Other personalities whose lives Nasrallah chronicled were Julia Tohme, May Ziade, Rose El-Youssef, Ibtihaj Kaddoura, and Anbara Salam.
Ultimately, the most striking pioneers Nasrallah mentioned were the women whose views seemed to conflict with those of others. Zeinab Fawwaz, initially an illiterate maid, was the first female to write an Arabic novel and openly defend the Muslim veil as a symbol, saying it should not necessarily hamper a woman from pursuing an education. The issue of the veil then became the incentive behind Annas Barakat’s decision to pursue medicine and become the first woman doctor in the Arab world. She had taken the decision after hearing a conservative friend of hers claim that she would leave her sick mother to die rather than incur the shame of asking a male doctor to treat her.