Women Readers, Women Writers in 18th and Early 19th Century Lebanon

Arabic Literature (in English)

In Anbara Khalidi’s Memoirs of an Early Arab Feminist: The Life and Activism of Anbara Salam Khalidi, Khalidi spends a fair bit of time discussing her views of literature, magazines, and writers:

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Although, as she notes, reading was one of the few pleasures open to her, as she didn’t have access to the “cinema, no trips, no swinging parties, no nightlife, no sunning ourselves on the beach, no listening to the radio, no lounging before television screens.”

Khalidi was born in 1897, nearly a half-century after Lebanese author Ahmed Faris al-Shidyaq published his genre- (and gender)-bending four-volume Leg Over Leg. Yet Khalidi’s feminism seems in many ways less ambitious than al-Shidyaq’s. Khalidi’s was instead inspired by Qasim Amin (1863-1908), a writer sometimes called the “first Arab feminist.” While that’s doubtful — al-Shidyaq’s feminism is surely more fun than Amin’s — Amin was perhaps the first prominent Arab writer to…

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