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Book Review: I Killed Scheherazade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman by Joumana Haddad

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Tsunamis have their origins at the point of the earthquake or volcanic eruption, seemingly coming out of nowhere.  Always unexpected, they carry with them the potential of changing the landscape in dramatic ways by destroying what is old or ungrounded in its path.

Joumana Haddad photoJoumana Haddad, an award-winning poet and journalist, kicked off the first erotic cultural magazine in the Arab world in 2008, JASAD (Body), for which she made international headlines as “the Carrie Bradshaw of Beirut.”

Born in Beirut to Christian parents, Haddad was a lover of books. As a young child, she took advantage of her father’s frequent absence from the home to climb to the top shelves of his library to read Marquis de Sade whom Haddad says, “changed (her) irrevocably.” Other authors with whose works she became intimately familiar at a young age were Dostoyevsky, Sallinger, Gibran, and Éluard. 

I Killed Scheherazade is a rapid-fire literary, often poetic, attack upon the enemies of full, thus explicit, feminist expression, both the covert adversaries and the obvious ones, that hits the bulls-eye time after time. With the precision of a sniper and the tenacity of a pit bull, Joumana Haddad turns over all the rocks to expose the life beneath them: Western feminist ideas about Arab women, Arab hypocrisy in literary criticism, and Christian and Islamic fundamentalism.

Autobiographically weaving her interaction with the literary giants she has known since her childhood through her consumption of the forbidden books, she constructs a journal of thought that has the intellectual markings of a manifesto. It is solid, perceptive beyond the norm, and has a forward-leaning push that will generate ample force to resist the social pressures to marginalize or to quieten her.

I Killed Scheherazade is not for those readers who must have their philosophies written as a “system” of thought. Rather, it will suit well those curious readers who want the windows flung wide open to all the possible objections, thus opening the possibilities for deeper, more serious conversations, with their cultures.

A force this strong has the potential to become a tsunami, given time, circumstances, and audience. As a young author living in a time of revolution and liberation, Haddad’s ebullient expression is a foretaste of the broader vision that will surely be realized, one which her own voice has inspired.

Highly recommended.

About ToddT

I enjoy baseball and writing about it. I pay to see independent league play, the Fort Worth Cats and the Grand Prairie AirHogs, and I follow the Texas Rangers rather passionately. A native of the Dallas area, I am nearing 60 years old, and I have been married to my college sweetheart for 36 years and counting.
  • Abir Ward

    It is the duty of every Arab woman to read and understand this book and pass it on to her Arab and Western friends.
    I plan to include this book in my syllabus next semester because it is my duty to read and discuss this book with the youth of Lebanon.