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10 Middle Eastern writers you should know

These 10 female writers are challenging conceptions of women in the Middle East.
Syrian writer and journalist Samar Yazbek poses on September 26, 2014 in Paris. AFP PHOTO JOEL SAGET        (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

Sensational stories recycled and propagated by mainstream Western media and Hollywood films have painted a one-dimensional portrait of the Middle Eastern woman as a submissive victim of oppressive patriarchy and religion. But even a rudimentary exploration of the literature through which the region’s female writers have been articulating their personal memories as well as their social observations, critiques and visions for the past half century, would introduce not merely a counternarrative, but an anti-narrative — a literary refusal to whittle down the diversity of experiences lived by Middle Eastern women into a single, neatly defined condition.

In the aftermath of World War II, many of the newly formed Arab states introduced social reforms — such as free, mandatory public education — that enabled women to more easily insert themselves into the male-dominated field of the literary arts. They continue, however, to constitute a minority within the domain, many of them bolstered by a background of privilege. As a result, many of the experiences had by women in the region have yet to find articulation in regional literature. 

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