Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Killed Scheherazade by Joumana Haddad

Joumana Haddad photo
Tsunamis have their origins at the point of the earthquake or volcanic eruption, seemingly coming out of nowhere.  Always unexpected, they carry with them the potential of changing the landscape in dramatic ways by destroying what is old or ungrounded in its path.

Joumana Haddad, an award-winning poet and journalist, kicked off the first erotic cultural magazine in the Arab world in 2008, JASAD (Body), for which she made international headlines as "the Carrie Bradshaw of Beirut."

Born in Beirut to Christian parents, Haddad was a lover of books.  As a young child, she took advantage of her father's frequent absence from the home to climb to the top shelves of his library to read Marquis de Sade whom Haddad says, "changed (her) irrevocably."  Other authors with whose works she became intimately familiar at a young age were Dostoyevsky, Sallinger, Gibran, and Éluard.

I Killed Scheherazade is a rapid-fire literary, often poetic, attack upon the enemies of full, thus explicit, feminist expression, both the covert adversaries and the obvious ones, that hits the bullseye time after time.  With the precision of a sniper and the tenacity of a pit bull, Joumana Haddad turns over all the rocks to expose the life beneath them: Western feminist ideas about Arab women, Arab hypocrisy in literary criticism, and Christian and Islamic fundamentalism.

Autobiographically weaving her interaction with the literary giants she has known since her childhood through her consumption of the forbidden books, she constructs a journal of thought that has the intellectual markings of a manifesto. It is solid, perceptive beyond the norm, and has a forward-leaning push that will generate ample force to resist the social pressures to marginalize or to quieten her.

I Killed Scheherazade is not for those readers who must have their philosophies written as a "system" of thought.  Rather, it will suit well those curious readers who want the windows flung wide open to all the possible objections, thus opening the possibilities for deeper, more serious conversations, with their cultures.

A force this strong has the potential to become a tsunami, given time, circumstances, and audience.  As a young author living in a time of revolution and liberation, Haddad's ebullient expression is a foretaste of the broader vision that will surely be realized, one which her own voice has inspired.

160 pages, Lawrence Hill Books, September 1, 2011

Highly recommended

Article first published as Book Review: I Killed Scheherazade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman by Joumana Haddad on Blogcritics.

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