Response to Tara Mendola's "Where Do We Go From Here? reading 'Arab Women's Writing' today" College Literature 36.3 (Summer 2009): 221-29

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Author: Brinda J. Mehta
Date: Winter 2010
From: College Literature(Vol. 37, Issue 1)
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Document Type: Essay
Length: 1,747 words

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I am responding to a review of my book, Rituals of Memory in Contemporary Arab Women's Writing (2007) by Tara Mendola, which was previously published in College Literature (Mendola 2009).

While reviewers are free to express their opinions, I am alarmed by the extremely partial and misleading critique of my work in this particular review essay. The deliberate omission of key chapters is very disturbing. Three of the most important sections on Palestine, Lebanon, Algeria, and Iraq are not even mentioned. The chapter on Palestine is nearly forty-eight pages (28-75). The chapter on Lebanon and Iraq (188-227) comprises another forty pages, while the discussion of Algerian author Malika Mokkeddem (76-120) also remains unacknowledged. I question the reviewer's choices, given her chapter-by-chapter analysis of Nawar El-Hassan Golley's edited volume Arab Women's Lives Retold: Exploring Identity through Writing, which precedes the critique of my book.

Given the current geopolitical situation in the world today, and the politically charged situations in Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon, I am very concerned that the review chose to eliminate even a brief mention of these chapters. This critical excision is particularly curious given the review's own lamentations on the situation in Gaza when she references Golley's anthology. To quote: "As I write this review in the aftermath of the latest violent convulsion in Gaza, over a thousand human beings have been slaughtered, more wounded--each one someone's child. And so, the image of the maternal body ridden with the detritus of war which it cannot expel appears a particularly appropriate way for this volume to conclude" (Mendola 2009, 226). Ironically, the opening chapter of my book focuses on the situation of Palestinian refugees in the decimated camp of Tal Ezza'tar located in East Beirut from 1968 to 1982. The destruction of the camp by a Lebanese-Israeli coalition is a historical fact fictionalized in Liana Badr's The Eye of the Mirror. This novel highlights the pre-Intifada resistance of Palestinian mothers and daughters who attempt to "wage peace" through creative, non-violent activism as a response to the masculinist ethics of war. These narratives simultaneously contest and conform to dominant gender ideologies, as the women provide a gendered account of the Palestinian resistance struggle in Lebanon. The chapter also explores the link between trauma and the memory of occupation. None of this is mentioned in the review, even though historical and literary accounts of Tal Ezza'tar occupy such an important place in Middle Eastern politics and literature.

I remain equally baffled by the complete negation of Chapter Five, "Cities Under Siege and the Language of Survival in Hanan Al-Shaykh's Beirut Blues and Nuha Al-Radi's Baghdad Diaries." even...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A219521755