Nadia, Captive of Hope

by Fay Afaf Kanafani

An Arab Muslim woman born in Beirut in 1918 weaves together reflections on her personal struggle for independence with an account of her extended family’s dislocation in the violent political upheavals of the Middle East. As Lisa Majaj points out in her insightful introduction, this is no simplistic account of an Islamic woman rescued by the West. Nadia’s family is both oppressive and supportive. Forced into an arranged marriage as a young teenager, she feels little for her husband but loves her in-laws more than her own selfish parents. Later, she is torn between passionate love for another man and loyalty to her children, and she struggles for education and a career. Most moving is the account of how her privileged family is suddenly uprooted by the Jewish takeover of their home in Haifa. Part of the Foremother Legacies series, this holds you less as literary memoir than as a candid autobiography that opens up our history.