Memoirs of an Egyptian Woman Student in America
Radwa Ashour; translated by Michelle Hartman
published 2018 • 6" x 9" • 152 pages • b&w photos
ISBN 9781623719975 • paperback • $20.00 •
THIS TRANSLATION IS AN HOMAGE TO A GREAT LITERARY FIGURE AND TO THOSE MOVEMENTS WHICH CARRY ON HER LEGACY IN THEIR WORK
Never neutral and deeply engaged in politics, literature, people’s struggles, and what she calls the “most urgent causes of our times,” a young Radwa Ashour charts her years as a student in the US of the 1970s, where she would become the first PhD student to graduate from the newly founded W.E.B Du Bois department of Afro-American Studies and the English Department of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1975. A political progressive and leftist writer, critic, and activist, her memoir reflects not only on her own journey and struggles but those of the people she met and engaged with in the United States, especially African Americans.
The Journey narrates the years which Ashour spent in the US and captures so vividly the spirit and ethos of the time it chronicles—the early 1970s. Anti-colonial movements, a commitment to popular struggles and people’s liberation, as well as linking scholarship and work on the ground, are all alive and real in her memoir.
First published in Arabic over thirty years ago and written about a period (1973–1975) a decade before, the text is still vibrant and relevant today. Just emerging from the devastation of the Six Day War in 1967, Ashour talks about the pain of what we call the “sixties generation” in the Arab world and intermeshes the pressing questions and issues of the time within a quotidian story, as well as the life of an Egyptian woman within a deeply divided US society at war both with itself and abroad.
Radwa Ashour’s work—through the unique lens of this incisively observant visitor—reminds us of what the issues and debates in the US of this period were like and how deeply connected they are to struggles today such as Black Lives Matter and Ferguson-Palestine.
Radwa Ashour (1946-2014) was a celebrated Egyptian feminist, activist, scholar, novelist, and professor of literature, whose work is considered part of the so-called Sixties generation. At the time of her premature death in the winter 2014, she had just published a memoir of her final years, including her engagement in the 2011 Egyptian revolution, Heavier than Radwa. Ashour penned numerous works of fiction, with important historical, cultural, and political resonance and meaning. Among her most acclaimed works are her Granada Trilogy, Specters, and the Woman from Tantoura. Ashour’s sharp political critiques, commitment to social justice, advocacy of equality for women, and untiring support for the liberation of Palestine are matched by a dedication to speaking for marginalized communities, particularly African Americans. She won many prizes and honors in her distinguished career, including the Cairo International Book Fair’s Book of the Year award in 1994 for the first volume of the Granada Trilogy.
Olive Branch Press
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