Essays and Features
Arab cultural circles have recently mourned the loss of the prominent Egyptian intellectual Latifa al-Zayyat, who died of cancer in Cairo on September 10, 1996. She was 73 years old. Her death came soon after she had received Egypt ’s highest State Prize for literature. While the state’s acknowledgment of her achievements was long overdue, al-Zayyat had much popular and collegial support throughout her often difficult life-journey.
Many Mideast scholars and political groups have grown increasingly concerned with the dwindling numbers and persecutions of Mideast Christians. One Lebanese scholar, Dr. Antoine Saad, wrote a book in Arabic, “The Survival of Christians in the East is a Muslim Choice,” where he advances the flawed thesis that the survival of Christians depends wholly upon the Muslim majority (his thesis attributes the survival of the Lebanese Christians to their leadership, a topic not discussed in this essay).
Every year, prior to the Swedish Academy announcing its Nobel Prize in Literature, many Arabs anxiously wait to hear if their own unofficial candidates will win. The last time this happened Naguib Mahfouz won the prize 28 years ago. This year, not only did no Arab poet or novelist receive the award, but many felt additional disappointment with the Academy’s choice to give the prize to noted musician Bob Dylan.
More Arab-American writers are getting their work published than ever before, but even those lucky few who land lucrative book contracts with big publishers still face a host of problems ranging from censorship to being pigeonholed as only Arab-American writers.
It is no accident that the "Love Boat" theatrical sea journey ends in Shakespeare's "King Lear," as more and more Syrians die either under assault from Assad and Russian bombs or by drowning, desperately taking to the seas in hopes of escaping genocidal policies.
Ms. Janine di Giovanni, one of Europe’s most respected reporters, chronicles the hardships inflicted upon adults and children alike, telling tales both gruesome and emotional in her new book, “The Morning They Came for Us” (Liveright, 2016). From her visits to Syria in 2012, di Giovanni gathered stories, speaking with a diverse group of people including pro-Assad nuns, regime doctors, and civilian activists...“The Morning They Came for Us” provides rich content that can be difficult to find in daily news coverage alone.