Gender Studies

Reading Arab Women’s Autobiographies: Shahrazad Tells Her Story

Nawar Al-Hassan Golley, Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003. 236 pages.

In writing Reading Arab Women’s Autobiographies: Shahrazad Tells Her Story, Nawar Al-Hassan Golley’s goal is to fill a critical gap. Recent books like Marilyn Booth’s May Her Likes Be Multiplied: Biography and Gender Politics in Egypt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001) analyze women’s relation to biography from Zainab Fawwaz’s Scattered Pearls  (1894) onward. However, any critical analysis of Arab women’s autobiography is scarce, if not non-existent. In its efforts to fill this critical gap, Reading Arab Women’s Autobiographies carves out a dual readership. Delineating past and present meanings both within and without Islam of “Arab,” “Arab world,” “hijab,” and “harem” with an eye to the non-Arab reader, Golley’s analysis of five autobiographical texts and three anthologies of women’s collected stories simultaneously participates in a conversation with other Arab women scholars about modes of text production, distribution, and the overall place of women’s autobiography within Arab feminism.

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