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March 2020

Against the Canon: Urdu Feminist Writing

Image: Farazeh Syed, Attire (cropped), acrylic on canvas, 4 x 5 ft, 2016. By arrangement with the artist. 

This month we present six important but underrecognized Urdu feminist writers. These writers—all outside the established canon—explore holiday observances and quotidian exchanges, charged relationships and domestic conflicts, confirming the great variety of faces, tones, concerns, and aesthetics within the genre. Hijab Imtiaz reflects on a new beginning. Miraji investigates Sappho’s life and poetry, while Khalida Hussain’s household members confront a domestic intruder. And in poetry, Sara Shagufta considers the elements, Parveen Shakir deflects a suitor, and Yasmeen Hameed challenges conventions worldly and otherwise. Guest editor Haider Shahbaz and others collaborate on an illuminating introduction. In our special feature, Sawad Hussain and Nariman Youssef introduce readers to four unsung Arabic-language women writers and their autobiographical work. Elsewhere, we bring you voices on the COVID-19 pandemic from around the world.


Book Reviews

Rodaan Al Galidi Gives a Mordant Account of a Long Wait for Asylum in “Two Blankets, Three Sheets”

Reviewed by Matt Hanson

At once funny and bleak, this novel by the Iraq-born Dutch novelist draws on his personal experiences to expose the cruel and often absurd procedural challenges that immigrants must endure.

Monika Zgustova Collects Women’s Stories from the Gulag in “Dressed for a Dance in the Snow”

Reviewed by Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild

A volume of interviews with survivors of the detention camps first created by Lenin in 1918 documents harrowing abuses against dissidents and minorities that extend to present-day Russia.

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