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Abu Jmeelís Daughter & Other Stories
Arab Folk Tales from Palestine and Lebanon
collected and retold Jamal Sleem Nuweihed; edited by Salma Khadra Jayyusi

5 1/2Ē x 8 1/4Ē • 368 pages • b&w illus.
ISBN 9781566564182 • paperback • $16.95

"Women are the center of these 27 lively traditional tales that have been told and retold in Lebanese, Palestinian, and Turkish families for generations...translated here for a contemporary audience...bright, accessible...the informal style has the immediacy and timelessness of family storytelling...There are motifs from The Thousand and One Nights...and also from the Brothers Grimm...for family, school and adult audiences. A rich resource for teens and teachers."

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These 27 traditional folk stories were written down, shortly before her death, by Jamal Sleem Nuweihed, who had recounted them to the children of her extended family over many years. Authentically Arab in their themes, yet timelessly universal, they are sometimes magical, sometimes naturalistic, and combine a wealth of vivid detail with elements of pathos and humor. Translated by family members of various generations, then expertly edited, the book is a precious store of the kind of tale endlessly cherished but in danger of disappearing.

Jamal Sleem Nuweihed (1907–91) was born in Lebanon to a Lebanese doctor and a Turkish mother. She lived many decades in Palestine where she raised a family and spent all her free time quietly at home, either reading or writing her poetry and fiction. The author of three published novels and many poems, she was one of the most versatile creative people, enjoying writing a story as much as telling it. The folk tales are only a small part of the rich repertoire of tales she kept alive in her memory until her last days.

Salma Khadra Jayyusi, the author’s niece and translator of some of the stories, is a poet, critic, literary historian, and anthologist. She is the founder and director of PROTA, the Project for the Translation of Arabic Literature.

Christopher Tingley was born in Brighton, England, and educated at the universities of London and Leeds. He has translated or co-translated many novels, poems, and short stories from the Arabic, among them Yusuf al-Qaid’s novel War in the Land of Egypt and the poetry for the two-volume Trends and Movements in Modern Arabic Poetry.

Media Reviews

"This satisfying group of tales was collected by Nuweihed, a novelist, and edited by her niece, Salma Jayyusi, who directs a translation center for works in Arabic in Cambridge, Massachusetts."
-- Book News

"Exquisite collection...While the female protagonists are intelligent and capable, their worlds are circumscribed; they know little of the universe outside their garden walls. The male protagonists travel far and wide, their only boundaries imposed by bad luck....Magical birds, beautiful genies, clever sons and beautiful daughters populate these pages. Readers of all ages will enjoy the delightful and timeless narratives."
-- Foreword Magazine

"These tales had been passed down as oral tradition by generations of women and finally were written down by Nuweihed, when she was eighty-three, at the request of her niece, Salma Jayyusi...The stories she memorized and frequently retold are not only entertaining but also show how a classic oral tradition becomes a medium for passing on to children moral lessons and ethical values. In addition, these stories are interesting in that almost all of them portray women who are active decision makers in various life situations that they confront."
-- Journal of Palestine Studies

"'Abu Jmeel's daughter, Rida, [was] utterly lacking in beauty. She was very short and disfigured by the marks of smallpox, her eyes were as small as beads, and she had crinkly short hair, while her mouth was large and her teeth quite uneven. Still, she was clever and had an instinctive understanding of the world.' So begins the title story in this exquisite collection. Although Rida isn't beautiful, she triumphs in the tale because she is obedient and honorable-persistent themes in this anthology.
†††† The author, a Lebanese-Turkish woman, wrote down these stories from her own repertoire in 1990, at her niece's request. Nuweihed had first heard the tales from female relatives and storytellers during her childhood in Lebanon and Palestine in the early 1900s.
†††† Although Nuweihed possessed a keen intellect, and wrote novels and poetry, she was seldom allowed to leave her home, and so she remained isolated from the literary community. These tales reflect her circumstances. While the female protagonists are intelligent and capable, their worlds are circumscribed; they know little of the universe outside their garden walls. The male protagonists travel far and wide, their only boundaries imposed by bad luck. Too, women are punished for not being submissive. In 'The Tailor's Daughter,' Nisreen insults the king's son after he makes an insolent comment to her. In retaliation, he marries her and then banishes her to the cellar for seven years, saying, 'I can never forget those words she used to me.' Through ingenuity and patience, Nisreen finally bests the prince and he forgives her.
†††† Each of the stories has been chosen and translated by the author's daughters, son, nephew, niece, and grandchildren. Magical birds, beautiful genies, clever sons, and beautiful daughters populate these pages. Readers of all ages will enjoy the delightful and timeless narratives in this family heirloom."
-- Foreword Magazine

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