Nadia, Captive of Hope: Memoir of an Arab Woman

Nadia, Captive of Hope: Memoir of an Arab Woman

Nadia, Captive of Hope: Memoir of an Arab Woman

Nadia, Captive of Hope: Memoir of an Arab Woman


A rare feminist perspective on a people and a culture in one of the most tumultuous regions in the world, Nadia, Captive of Hope is the autobiography of Fay Afaf Kanafani, an Arab Muslim woman born in Beirut in 1918.


I have no problem looking into my memory and recovering the look, sound, smell, and even my emotional reaction to events from very early childhood. But for me to imagine sitting down to write a book was unthinkable. The science of language has never been my strong point, something proven time and again in school. In grammar school, my classmate Iso and I used to cheat by exchanging homework: she would do my French and humanities and I would do her math and science.

I acquired my statistical training late in life and entered a career in that field partly because I was stronger in science and mathematics than I was in languages and literature. That is why, after I came to settle in the United States in 1985, I decided I would have to take classes in English grammar and literature to be able to attend the classes in art I loved most. But Dorothy, my beautiful and serene English instructor, discovered a different side of me, one I was not aware of. She saw in my written assignments a gift for writing fiction. "Are these your stories or did you copy them from a magazine?" she asked. "No," I told her, "I am translating them from my diary. These stories are about my own life."

From then on Dorothy began to pay special attention to my writing, and she finally said, "You have the material here for a valuable book." But she also said, "Your English has a long way to go before you could be published in the United States. Why don't you publish these stories in Arabic and the work could be later translated into English."

I did not have the courage to tell my wonderful teacher that reading my diary opened deep wounds that I have carried throughout life. It is all so personal that seeing the events I endured and the names of those cruel people in Arabic script makes me sick. The familiar letters seem to jump off the sheets and glare back at me with a vengeance. I could not tell Dorothy that it was easier for me to express my feelings in a . . .

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