Recent Stories

Layla Baalbaki: The Last Existential Feminist

Upon her passing, critics must reintroduce the late author, whose literary legacy was lost in the haze of time
Despite her reputation as one of the boldest Lebanese women writers at the peak of her career, Layla Baalbaki’s passing without much coverage on October 21, 2023, though delivering a shock throughout the Arab literary world, did not come as a surprise given the journalist and writer’s retreat from the spotlight since the 60s. Baalbaki was the first Lebanese woman tried in court for “outraging public decency” with her short story collection, “Spaceship of Tenderness to the Moon” (1963). The late writer’s life has been shrouded in mystery since she departed from literary fiction, even more so after her death. As many recall the impact of her works, others speculate on her short-lived literary career in equal fervor: why did Layla Baalbaki stop writing? Did she leave behind any notes or a memoir about her life before her passing? Without the woman herself to confirm or deny, any answers remain mere speculation.


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Working through War: Women Tell Their Stories through the Arts

Lynne Rogers
Women’s War Stories: The Lebanese Civil War, Women’s Labor, and the Creative Arts
Edited by Michelle Hartman and Malek Abisaab
Syracuse University Press, 2022
In “Women’s War Stories: The Lebanese Civil War, Women’s Labor, and the Creative Arts,” editors Michelle Hartman and Malek Abisaab curated six essays that begin to address the lack of scholarship on the role o

Escaping the Israeli Nightmare

Pamela Nice

“At the time of this review, Israeli bombs are raining down on the civilians of Gaza, and the wounded and starving are dying by the thousands. It is more important than ever for us to know those people we have pretended don’t exist: the Palestinians. As horrendous as the Hamas attack was, Israel’s narrative attempts to “de-contextualize and de-historicize” it, as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has said, and to label October 7 as Israel’s 9/11 is yet another attempt to erase the Occupation. Focusing on the West Bank, Ramsey Hanhan’s “Fugitive Dreams” reminds us that the Occupation is as real as the Palestinians who have suffered under it.  

The Secret History: Reframing Arab American Origin Stories Through a Queer Lens

Angele Ellis
Possible Histories: Arab Americans and the Queer Ecology of Peddling
By Charlotte Karem Albrecht
University of California Press, 2023
Charlotte Karem Albrecht begins her groundbreaking study with an Arab American family origin story that departs from the heteronormative narrative of intrepid immigrant peddlers achieving success and assimilating into white American s

New Book Examines ‘Solidarity Tourism’ in Palestine as the ‘Voice of the People’

Lynne Rogers
Invited to Witness: Solidarity Tourism across Occupied Palestine
By Jennifer Lynn Kelly
Duke University Press, 2023
In her book “Invited to Witness: Solidarity Tours across Occupied Palestine,” Jennifer Lynn Kelly explores an aspect of the recent phenomena of trauma/tragedy travel by focusing on the solidarity tours in Occupied Palestine.

Farewell to Habib Sadek (1931-2023): Friend, Poet, and Exceptionally Honest Politician

Having Self-Exiled from the Turbulent World of Lebanese Politics, Sadek Dies Peacefully at 92
Elie Chalala

Rarely do I get personal in my notebooks and essays, but this time I will. On July 1, 2023, I lost a friend in Lebanon whom I had known for more than four decades, and even longer if I count the years before I met him in person in Los Angeles. Habib Sadek (1931-2023) was a Lebanese intellectual, poet, author, head of the Cultural Council of Southern Lebanon, former parliamentarian, and, more importantly, someone whose support deeply impacted the early years of Al Jadid Magazine, for which I will always be grateful.

Nazik al-Malaika: Queen of Free Verse Remains Uncertain

Fifty Years of Debate Yield No Consensus Over Her Place on the Throne of New Arabic Poetry
Elie Chalala

Rarely do I open a cultural page in Arab newspapers, whether print or online, without catching wind of new discourse on modern poetry. Though I have never written poetry, the topic naturally draws my interest as an academic in political science, lecturing on debates between tradition and modernity for nearly a third of a century...Debates between traditional and new poetry shouldn’t be dismissed as simply Byzantine arguments. Such discourse indicates significant changes in the Arab world, including modernization and later globalization. Several critics have raised this discussion, the latest of which was in a column by Aref al-Saadi in Asharq Al Awsat, who writes, “I say this based on a slow study of our contemporary poetry and its trends, and I say it because it is the logical result of our willingness to read European literature and study the latest theories in philosophy, art, and psychology. In reality, those who want to combine modern culture with ancient traditions of poetry are like those living today in the clothes of the first century of immigration.” According to Saadi, there are two alternatives to discussing modernity and tradition: “Either we learn the theories, are influenced by them, and apply them, or we do not learn them at all. It may be useful for us to remember that the development in the arts and literature in a given era arises from the meeting of two or more nations.” Closed nations don’t produce anything new but merely repeat what their ancestors did.