On July 2nd, 2007 we discussed The Story of Zahra (Hikayat Zahrah) by Hanan al-Shaykh.
Hanan al-Shaykh is one of the leading contemporary women writers in the Arab world. Her books are rich portrayals of characters caught in family and political situations, and The Story of Zahra is no exception. This is a deftly written story of a young woman growing up, discovered sexuality, and the upheaval of Lebanon during the civil war.
The Story of Zahra is a powerfully haunting portrait of innocence destroyed by violence both at home and in the larger world. It is also a very frank presentation of a woman with a very complicated sexuality and decidedly unpoetic history of relationships. Zahra is not the archetypical strong Arabic heroine. She is fraught with self doubt and mental health difficulties. Unable to connect with her family or to the roles she is supposed to play in society, Zahra is somewhat adrift throughout the book, finding herself only in the moments where the world mirrors her madness.