Reading: a form of Art

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My dad told me the other night while I was heading to my bedroom/my working space- what I flatter myself and call my studio- “read as well.” I looked at him and said “yes Baba I do read.” He was relieved that I did not consume all my spare time only sewing and quilting. I then headed to my room and grabbed my current reading which is a memoir by Jean Said Makdisi, the sister of the well known scholar Edward Said. I took the book and showed it to my dad to reassure him that I do read as well.

When I was a kid I have to admit I wasn’t a reader, but in the recent years I grew to enjoy reading. I feel like reading books gives me energy and feeds my knowledge. Obviously the impact of reading on myself depends on the genre of the book I’m reading. I love fiction books. I can finish them in a few days because generally I get hooked into reading them continuously. Those books are fun and I feel sad when I reach to the end of them because I no longer live with the protagonist and antagonist. The other type of books I also enjoy reading are memoirs and self-help books (that are more in the style of memoirs).

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When studying at McGill University in Montreal, Canada I took an elective called “Muslim Societies” where the professor, Laila Parsons– daughter of a previous British Ambassador in Iran- focused on three main regions: Egypt, Palestine and Iran. The way we studied the history of those regions was mainly through reading memoirs. We would read two memoirs from two different perspectives. It made learning the history of the regions very interesting because we are exposed to two different perspectives on the same era.

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The memoir I’m currently reading is called “Teta, Mother, and Me: Three Generations of Arab Women”Ā  by Jean Said Makdisi. This memoir was actually recommended by Professor Laila Parsons back at McGill University. I’ve been wanting to read it since but I never got about purchasing it. It is interesting to learn about the 19th-20th Century Arab community and generations in Palestine, Egypt and historic Syria (Syria, Lebanon and Jordan), Christianity, and life in Palestine before the Nakba in 1948. The Nakba refers to the Arab-Israeli war and what resulted in the exile of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land.

Jean Said divides her memoir into four parts: In my own Time, Teta in History, Mother’s World, Women Together: Mother and Me. I read part one of the memoir and now I’m well into Teta in History. Teta means ‘grandma’ in Syrian/Labenese/Jordanian dialect.

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I have two books lined up for my next reads: Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin and Elanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. I also want to read the memoir by Edward Said. I’m interested to read about Edward’s life, his perspective and how it would differ than that of his sister, Jean.

Fatema xoxo

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