A candid memoir from a Beirut-born Muslim woman who recounts the drama of her personal life against the backdrop of political violence and upheaval in the Middle East.
Written after the author fled war-torn Lebanon in the 1980s, this memoir is a remarkable and fascinating document about a woman’s role in a Muslim family and her will to overcome both personal and political tragedies. Kanafani’s story begins with her troubled home life in Beirut, complete with a family divided over status and fortune, aggressive brothers, and a sexually abusive father. While the young Nadia, as she is referred to in the memoir, survives her ordeals by means of avoidance, dreaming, and denial, she is unable to escape the arranged marriage to her cousin, to whom she was engaged when she was 13. Traumatized by her new situation as a wife and member of her cousin’s family in Haifa (in Palestine, then under British mandate), Nadia displays a stubbornness that leads to her being intoxicated and raped by her frustrated husband. The memoir evocatively describes how Nadia settles into her marriage and motherhood and provides an intriguing insider’s perspective on daily life in Palestine during the 1930s and ’40s. Jewish immigrants (a psychiatrist and a rabbi), Lebanese Christians, and old Palestinian Muslim families come to life in Kanafani’s depictions of personal friends and acquaintances. The Palestinian period and her husband’s death prove to be the first in a series of rebirths and tragedies. During the following decades, Nadia claims her independence and happiness through education, employment, motherhood, travel, romance, and a second blissful marriage. The memoir closes with the violence of the Lebanese civil war, which claimed the life of Nadia’s second husband and a way of life so frankly and (despite its tragic aspects) tenderly described in its earlier pages.
A moving narrative that passionately describes one Muslim woman’s determination to lead a life of her own choosing.