RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)... Palestinian–English editor Selma Dabbagh draws readers into such secretive spaces. She does this not by politicizing the restrictions that have historically been imposed on Arab women, but by elevating self-assertive voices and banishing long-held silences on matters such as same-sex desire and masturbation. The pieces seem almost to whisper to each other ... Particularly gripping is \'Fig Milk\', by the Palestinian journalist Samia Issa, about an older woman who experiments with her sexuality in the latrines of a refugee camp ... Lesbian love, which remains taboo across the region, is daringly explored ... Almost all the stories hinge on a precarious power dynamic, whether in the couple or between individuals and society, which results in female vulnerability. Sometimes, however, desire fleetingly finds fulfilment, emotionally or physically, and these moments are electrifying.
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksIn Silence Is a Sense, Layla AlAmmar takes on the trope of \'giving voice to the voiceless\' by literally centering her narrative on a mute, unnamed, 26-year-old Syrian refugee ... AlAmmar dismantles clichés by focusing in depth on her protagonist. Hers is a slow, arduous, yet heartwarming journey that is also at times stifling; we are only given glimpses into her former life, which are spaced out by long stretches of stream-of-consciousness narration. The protagonist’s memories of Syria constitute the strongest and most haunting passages in the book [...] which AlAmmar evokes beautifully. The unsettling flashbacks can feel jarring, perhaps intentionally so. But the protagonist’s confidence grows by the page and her rebellious spirit shines through.
RaveThe Rumpus... rigorously researched ... vivid detail ... Cormack paints an intoxicating picture of the city’s nightlife, recreating a seedy world little known to the West ... the lives of the enterprising divas are interlinked. Cormack traces an undulating line from one to the other as he skillfully maps out the political and social developments that impacted their careers ... The details Cormack shares of these women’s private lives are enticing and occasionally humorous ... Singer Fatima Sirri’s story is among the book’s most riveting ... Midnight in Cairo is filled with a thrilling cast of supporting characters and extras ... Cormack relies heavily on the dazzling, chaotic stories of these women as they told them in their own memoirs. Notably, he avoids romanticizing and exoticizing their lives ... Cormack deals delicately with...nuance and most certainly does not turn away from it. His book offers real insight into some of the region’s most fascinating women, whose under-appreciated impact is felt to this day.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksHala Alyan’s The Arsonists’ City offers a sprawling look at various fragments of Arab identity, carried across continents by several members of the same family, both first- and second-generation ... Alyan’s family saga contains meticulously crafted moments of betrayal, bitterness, and dashed ambitions ... While various swirling subplots consume much of this character-driven novel, The Arsonists’ City . is at its core a meditation on the loss of love and of one’s homeland — losses that are intertwined ... Alyan’s storytelling is driven by the question of whether to cling to customs and traditions or to make way for new ones. And yet, she steers clear of the trap that some Anglo-Arab authors have fallen into in recent years: attempting to challenge tired tropes while amplifying them at the same time. Instead, Alyan focuses her attention on the nuances of the characters she brings to life and the cities they inhabit. She immerses the reader in unspoken taboos without a hint of tendentiousness or self-Orientalizing ... an intricately plotted, tightly knit novel that at once breaks the heart and fills it with joy.