Top 10 Arab Female Authors To Know

by Reem Yassine

Mon, Jun 14, 2021

Fighting the patriarchy in the Arab world is like walking into a minefield. However, there are exceptionally fierce warriors who have tip-toed their way around the consequences. From fiction to non-fiction to poetry writers, here are the top ten Arab female writers whose work has left a mark and spoken to the souls of many. Their under-represented and radical has pushed the boundaries of what is expected from a writer in general, and women. From fiction to non-fiction to poetry writers, here are the top ten Arab female writers whose work has left a mark and spoken to the souls of many. 1- May Ziadeh Despite the harsh treatment of her relatives, and abandonment of most of her friends and colleagues, the Lebanese-Palestinian journalist, writer and poet May Ziadeh succeeded in inspiring following generations of writers, claiming her place among the greatest writers of modern Arab literature. During her time, Ziadeh sought integration and equality for women by questioning the norms and values on which traditional society was built. She took part in the Arab Renaissance of the 20th century and the efforts of Arab intellectuals to advance knowledge as the engine for development. Ziadeh established her own literary salon in her home in 1912, receiving then key male and female Arab literary figures and intellectuals. May Ziadeh was a prominent representative of Arabic Romanticism. Her literary style is sentimental and melancholic, expressed in highly emotional and metaphorical language, typical of a Romantic poet who seeks solace and refuge in love and contemplations of nature. 2- Nazek Al Malaika Born in 1923, Al-Malaika was a pioneer amongst the Iraqi poetry community, introducing a modern breaking away from the classical rules of rhyme schemes. She was raised as a feminist and her work sought to dismantle patriarchal social structures. Al-Malaika’s legacy as a poet resulted from her breaking away from many traditions. The leap from classical poetry to free verse was very controversial, and she faced intense criticism from not only traditionalists, but also her own family. Her first volume of free-verse poetry ‘Ashes and Shrapnel’ is the piece which popularized free verse. 3- Ahlam Mestaghanmi Algerian poet Mosteghanemi is the best-selling female author in the Arab world. She is the only Arab female poet and novelist to have been published in English. Ahlam Mosteghanemi's novels have been adopted in the curricula of several universities and high schools worldwide, and dozens of university theses and research papers have been based upon her work. It is recommended to read her first (and prize-winning) novel “Memory of the Flesh”, which explores the struggle to preserved Algeria’s political ideals, forged in revolution. 4- Nadia Tueni Nadia Tueni was an award-winning Lebanese poet. On top of publishing numerous collections of poetry, she contributed to many publications and was the literary editor of the Lebanese publication Le Jour. Her writing centered around her complicated relationship with Lebanon, and she won many notable awards, such as the prestigious Prix de l’Académie Française, and Order of Le Pléiade. Her famous works include Les Texts Blonds and La Terre Arretée.She is recognized "for a poetry which carries within it the rhythms, the visions, the sumptuousness of the Arabic verse" 5- Emily Nasrallah Emily Nasrallah was a famed Lebanese writer and women’s activist. Her debut novel Birds of September won 3 Arabic literary awards and is widely considered a classic, taught in many Arabic schools. She explored ideas related to the concept of leaving one’s home; the pain those left behind feel, the fear of new surroundings, and the bittersweet realization of the impossibility of return. She received the Goethe Medal, among other awards, in 2017. On top of Birds of September, her notable works include A House Not Her Own: Stories from Beirut, and Flight Against Time. 6- Ghada Al-Samman Ghadah Al-Samman is a Syrian writer, journalist, and novelist. Al-Samman has more than 40 published works, which includes everything from novels and short stories to poetry and journal entries and is regarded as one of the most influential voices of gender equality in the Arab world. Moreover, Al-Samman depicts a series of running themes throughout her work – a rejection of Arab bourgeois values, the importance of individual liberty and the quest for women’s emancipation, which she views as fundamental to humanity’s overall search for freedom. 7- Suzanne Alaywan Suzanne Alaywan is both a poet and a painter. She has published nine collections of poetry, many of which have been translated and featured in academic journals and poetry publications. Her art often accompanies her poetry to make for an even more expressive, personal reading. Her more recent works include Junk Words, A Presence Called Love, and Blind Lantern. 8- Nawal El Saadawi  Nawal El Saadawi is the second-most-translated author from Arabic after Naghib Mahfouz. The Egyptian writer and doctor is a greatly prominent feminist novelist, critic and human rights advocate. Consequently, she observed first-hand the hardships and physical burdens women, particularly those of lower classes, underwent. She began to posit connections between women’s psychological and physical problems and the oppressive patriarchal structures they lived in. Her book Women and Sex (1972) is a hugely influential work which became a seminal text of second-wave feminism, depicting women’s bodies as a battleground in the struggle for equality. As well as her non-fiction texts, El-Saadawi has written several short story collections and novels, many of which discuss contemporary women’s socio-cultural circumstances. 9- Venus khoury-Ghata Vénus Khoury-Ghata is an award-winning, renowned Lebanese writer and poet based in France. She has published 40 novels and collections of poems that center around women protagonists often set in contrast to male antagonists. Her many awards include the 2011 Goncourt Prize for Poetry and the 1992 Grand Prize of the Société Des Gens De Lettres. Her notable works include A House at the Edge of Tears, A Handful of Blue Earth, and She Says. 10- Joumana Haddad Joumana Haddad is a journalist and a women’s rights activist. She is one of Lebanon’s most honest voices and was elected one of the world’s 100 most powerful women in the Arab world by Arabian Business Magazine. Haddad speaks seven languages and has written in many of them. In her most successful books, I Killed Sheherazade and the sequel Superman is Arab, she explores issues of gender, feminism and the need for renewed self-image in a changing Arab world.