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Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World

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Nineteen Arab women journalists speak out about what it's like to report on their changing homelands in this first-of-its-kind essay collection, with a foreword by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour International media coverage of the Arab world is dominated by the work of Western correspondents—meaning we often view stories about those complex, inter Nineteen Arab women journalists speak out about what it's like to report on their changing homelands in this first-of-its-kind essay collection, with a foreword by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour International media coverage of the Arab world is dominated by the work of Western correspondents—meaning we often view stories about those complex, interconnected conflicts through one particular lens. But a growing number of intrepid Arab women, whose access to and understanding of their subjects are vastly different than their Western counterparts, are working tirelessly to shape nuanced narratives about their homelands through their work as reporters and photojournalists. In Our Women on the Ground, nineteen of these women tell us, in their own words, about what it's like to report on conflicts that are (quite literally) close to home. From sexual harassment on the streets of Cairo to the impossibility of traveling without a male relative in Yemen, their challenges are unique—as are their advantages, such as being able to speak candidly with other women or gain entry to places that an outsider would never be able to access. Their daring, shocking, and heartfelt stories, told here for the first time, shatter stereotypes about Arab women and provide an urgently needed perspective on a part of the world that is often misunderstood. INCLUDING ESSAYS BY: Donna Abu-Nasr, Aida Alami, Hannah Allam, Jane Arraf, Lina Attalah, Nada Bakri, Shamael Elnoor, Zaina Erhaim, Asmaa al-Ghoul, Hind Hassan, Eman Helal, Zeina Karam, Roula Khalaf, Nour Malas, Hwaida Saad, Amira Al-Sharif, Heba Shibani, Lina Sinjab, and Natacha Yazbeck


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Nineteen Arab women journalists speak out about what it's like to report on their changing homelands in this first-of-its-kind essay collection, with a foreword by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour International media coverage of the Arab world is dominated by the work of Western correspondents—meaning we often view stories about those complex, inter Nineteen Arab women journalists speak out about what it's like to report on their changing homelands in this first-of-its-kind essay collection, with a foreword by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour International media coverage of the Arab world is dominated by the work of Western correspondents—meaning we often view stories about those complex, interconnected conflicts through one particular lens. But a growing number of intrepid Arab women, whose access to and understanding of their subjects are vastly different than their Western counterparts, are working tirelessly to shape nuanced narratives about their homelands through their work as reporters and photojournalists. In Our Women on the Ground, nineteen of these women tell us, in their own words, about what it's like to report on conflicts that are (quite literally) close to home. From sexual harassment on the streets of Cairo to the impossibility of traveling without a male relative in Yemen, their challenges are unique—as are their advantages, such as being able to speak candidly with other women or gain entry to places that an outsider would never be able to access. Their daring, shocking, and heartfelt stories, told here for the first time, shatter stereotypes about Arab women and provide an urgently needed perspective on a part of the world that is often misunderstood. INCLUDING ESSAYS BY: Donna Abu-Nasr, Aida Alami, Hannah Allam, Jane Arraf, Lina Attalah, Nada Bakri, Shamael Elnoor, Zaina Erhaim, Asmaa al-Ghoul, Hind Hassan, Eman Helal, Zeina Karam, Roula Khalaf, Nour Malas, Hwaida Saad, Amira Al-Sharif, Heba Shibani, Lina Sinjab, and Natacha Yazbeck

30 review for Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World

  1. 5 out of 5

    Zahra Hankir

    Though my name is on the book, I’m rating the gorgeous essays I edited. After having read those essays dozens of times over the past two years, they still give me goosebumps, and I remain astounded by their depth.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Everyone needs to read this book. The writing is gorgeous, the stories by turns heartbreaking, inspiring, and endlessly courageous, and they give western readers a clearer and more nuanced picture of life on the ground in the Arab world than I’ve ever read before.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    "Throughout the war, danger kept us company. Every minute of every day was terrifying. I was playing with death on one hand and defending my womanhood to society on the other, trying to prove that women can cover a war alongside men while keeping their so-called honor intact. I sometimes felt as though danger and death were very distant and my strength would protect me. I got so used to writing about death that I felt it could not possibly make me its victim." Asmaa al-Ghoul "Every thought I can "Throughout the war, danger kept us company. Every minute of every day was terrifying. I was playing with death on one hand and defending my womanhood to society on the other, trying to prove that women can cover a war alongside men while keeping their so-called honor intact. I sometimes felt as though danger and death were very distant and my strength would protect me. I got so used to writing about death that I felt it could not possibly make me its victim." Asmaa al-Ghoul "Every thought I can change or eye I can open to help people see the difficult lives the women in my homeland live and -the inequality they experience - makes the battle a worthy one." Zaina Ehraim "I bore witness to momentous geopolitical shifts and told stories of inspiring courage and of wretched failures. I heard of hopelessness, saw the bloodshed, and learned of the despair before I witnessed the cataclysm of the Arab revolutions and their rapid extinguishment through counterrevolutions." Roula Khalaf The nineteen essays in this book are by Arab women journalists and 0ne photojournalist. Every one is truly enlightening. Reporting on different conflicts in different countries in the Middle East and North Africa, these women demonstrated remarkable courage, determination, and candor. The perils they encountered and the difficulty of their assignments were magnified by restrictions and gender bias. My admiration for them is tremendous. My appreciation of their dedication to accurate news reporting is immense. These essays reinforce the importance of uncensored journalism. These women make this not very brave woman feel very proud to call them sisters.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amal Bedhyefi

    Such an important book that highlights the life of 19 female arab journalists who dared to break the stereotypes in order to be Sahafiyat . Zahra Hankir wrote in the introduction that ' A Sahafiya is twice burdened' and that is exactly why their stories need to be heard , especially with the rise of representation and the dangers of single narratives.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Geri Reads

    A sharp look at the various conflicts in Middle East through the eyes of Arab women journalists or the Sahafiyat who cover them. Insightful and smart, these essays are a must read. A sharp look at the various conflicts in Middle East through the eyes of Arab women journalists or the Sahafiyat who cover them. Insightful and smart, these essays are a must read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Usman Butt

    “When ISIS soldiers arrest me and kill me, it will be okay, because while they will cut off my head, I’ll still have dignity, which is better than living in humiliation.” This was the last daring Facebook post of Ruqia Hasan, a citizen journalist based in the Syrian city of Raqqa who was subsequently kidnapped and executed by Daesh in 2015. Hasan, like many across the Middle East, had no formal background or education in journalism, nor was she employed by any media outlet. However, like others a “When ISIS soldiers arrest me and kill me, it will be okay, because while they will cut off my head, I’ll still have dignity, which is better than living in humiliation.” This was the last daring Facebook post of Ruqia Hasan, a citizen journalist based in the Syrian city of Raqqa who was subsequently kidnapped and executed by Daesh in 2015. Hasan, like many across the Middle East, had no formal background or education in journalism, nor was she employed by any media outlet. However, like others across the region, she eagerly embraced social media and used it to document her experiences. Her Facebook posts provided a chilling insight into life under Daesh’s rule, and she paid the ultimate price for it. Journalism in the Middle East, whether by professional or citizen reporters, can often be a game of Russian roulette. With the region featuring at the bottom of the World Press Freedom Index, many face harassment, imprisonment, exile or death. While white, male war reporters and foreign correspondents dominate Western screens and by-lines, the crucial journalistic work done by Arab women often goes unappreciated and, yet, their work is essential to understanding the dynamics of the region. Our Women on the Ground: Essays by Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World’ by British-Lebanese writer and journalist Zahra Hankir collects personal stories of women who cover the news, from Iraq to Morocco. The essays reflect everything from the human cost of war and sexism in the workplace to tackling gender norms and the personal cost of reporting. The challenges women face when covering the Middle East are varied and, at times, oddly contradictory; some local media outlets try to prevent their own female employees from reporting certain stories. In Eman Helal’s essay ‘Just Stop’, we learn of her eagerness and tenacity as a photojournalist seeking to cover protests and civil strife in Egypt, despite her senior editor actively trying to stop her from going out on “dangerous” assignments which are “no place for women”. However, despite attempts to confine her to the office for her “own safety”, Helal finds that in fact the office is far from a safe space, often having to deal with harassment from her male colleagues. Media environments in the Arab world can be stifling for one’s journalistic career, but to be a female journalist in the region also has its advantages. Women can often get stories their male counterparts cannot get. At the height of conflict in places like Iraq, for example, female reporters were often able to pass through checkpoints and enter militia-held areas, which was unthinkable for their male counterparts. These female journalists are therefore able to offer a fascinating insight into spaces rarely open to the outside world. One particularly gripping account is offered by Hannah Allam, who managed to enter Imam Ali’s shrine in Najaf, southern Iraq, during the US assault on the city in 2004. US troops surrounded the religious compound, while members of the Shia Mehdi Army were battling them in the streets. While all the men were outside fighting, inside the shrine became a sanctuary for women. However, the women were not passively hiding from the violence outside, but were in fact undertaking relief efforts. It was here that Allam met extraordinary people keeping both the fighters of the Mehdi Army and US soldiers alive, showing empathy to soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Allam used her time in Iraq to talk about the effect of war on Iraqi society beyond the explosions; we meet Egyptian hairdressers and encounter Iraqis’ dark humour. By doing so, Allam allows the reader to see a side of Iraq that many do not think is worth reporting, even though this tells us more about the daily life of Iraqis than much of what is reported. The personal impact of covering the Middle East during troubled times comes out in multiple ways for each reporter. While some are directly threatened with violence for doing their jobs, others are forced into uncomfortable positions while covering conflict from afar. Hwaida Saad’s essay on how her interpersonal relationships with sources in Syria changed over time, as the 2011 Syrian Revolution turned into civil war, captured the dilemma faced by many journalists. As sectarianism became more salient in Syria, sources who had come to think of Hwaida as a friend became more suspicious of her and demanded to know what her sectarian background was. Being Lebanese, with her personal experience of conflict in Lebanon, she refused to answer these questions, but found that many of her sources stopped talking to her as a result. Personal boundaries cost her sources for stories and even friendships. Our Women on the Ground’ is a compelling and gripping read; it is, however, not an exhaustive compendium on female reporters from the Arab world. What the reader is being given is an insight into what is out there, a drop in a very large ocean; I have come to regard the book as an introduction into what is possible. By the simple act of reading what these women have to say, we are able to visit spaces, places and meet people that are otherwise beyond our reach. The diversity of voices out there is even greater than one book can capture, but where the book succeeds is bringing together different voices, allowing them to tell stories of their own choosing, each one being alluring in its own special way. As Zahra Hankir says in the introduction, “I created this long overdue anthology because it’s a book I desperately wanted to see on bookshelves everywhere”. If the key to a good book is to produce a book that you would like to read, I think Hankir has created a book that we are all desperate to read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alex Richey

    Audiofile Review. What an eye opener. I wasn't really consuming news about the Arab world as a teenager in the 2000s, so this really helped fill in some blanks. I really appreciate how honest and frank these women reporters are. I have a much better understanding, although still pretty basic, of the Arab world and what it is like for those women. More than anything, this book makes me hungry for more information. Audiofile Review. What an eye opener. I wasn't really consuming news about the Arab world as a teenager in the 2000s, so this really helped fill in some blanks. I really appreciate how honest and frank these women reporters are. I have a much better understanding, although still pretty basic, of the Arab world and what it is like for those women. More than anything, this book makes me hungry for more information.

  8. 4 out of 5

    D Dyer

    I was completely wrapped in reading this collection of thoughtful, frequently deeply affecting, sometimes uplifting and sometimes heartbreaking essays detailing the experiences of 19 female journalists writing frequently from and primarily about the experiences of women in the Middle East. The writing is absolutely stunning. And I haven’t read a book that details this sort of experience before, particularly not one which is this powerfully affecting. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wa I was completely wrapped in reading this collection of thoughtful, frequently deeply affecting, sometimes uplifting and sometimes heartbreaking essays detailing the experiences of 19 female journalists writing frequently from and primarily about the experiences of women in the Middle East. The writing is absolutely stunning. And I haven’t read a book that details this sort of experience before, particularly not one which is this powerfully affecting. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants insight and nuance on the experiences of Middle Eastern women.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Chabe

    Important, terrifying, electrifying.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Megan O'Hara

    i don't know this didn't really grip me despite its obvious importance. i think the format kind of stunted the essays and flattened most nuance out of the topic because they were all just fairly neat summaries of the journalists' careers up until the point of writing. and obviously there is still a lot of ongoing unrest and war and misogyny, etc etc etc, that it feels weird when those huge issues have to be tied up nicely after only 10 pages with the author.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    When Marie Colvin was murder, many people in the world mourned Yet, not to diminish her importance it should be noted that she was a Western journalist reporting on the Middle East. There had been and still are, Middle Eastern journalist who have been killed or imprisoned for the same reasons that Colvin was targeted. They do not get the same attention in the Western media for a variety of reasons: skin color, political viewpoint, and, perhaps least offensive, limited to no publication in Weste When Marie Colvin was murder, many people in the world mourned Yet, not to diminish her importance it should be noted that she was a Western journalist reporting on the Middle East. There had been and still are, Middle Eastern journalist who have been killed or imprisoned for the same reasons that Colvin was targeted. They do not get the same attention in the Western media for a variety of reasons: skin color, political viewpoint, and, perhaps least offensive, limited to no publication in Western media. Hankir’s collection does much to rectify that. Each essay in the collection is by a woman who reports from the Arab world and is Arab herself. The Introduction places the reporters in context – in the history of reporting in the Arab world as well as reporting as a woman in the Arab world. The essays range from personal to commentary to reflection. “An Orange Bra in Riyadh” by Donna Abu-Nas is in many ways the stellar standout in a group of stellar essays. In part this is because it deals with the changes in Saudi Arabia and how she experienced them as a working journalist, but also because it mentions the murder of Khashoggi. It also ensures that you never take little freedoms for granted again. There are a few essays that deal with the death of fellow journalists – be they friends, husbands, or mentors. And these are particularly touching and powerful. But “On a Belated Encounter with Gender” by Lina Attalah is especially moving for it focuses on the issues of deciding to become a journalist in a family that is traditional. The book is divided into sections, and of the course, the Exile section which deals with Syria is important to read simply because of perspective, but the essays also show case aspects of life that did not normally make it into Western news, presenting a more nuanced view of the area. This collection of essays is highly recommended.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ilhamreads

    OWOTG is a collection of essays by Arab women journalists edited by Lebanese-British Zahra Hankir. She wrote that she created the anthology because she’d been desperate to see a book like that on bookshelves, “one that brings attention to underreported tales and the women who tell them. Arab women aren’t heard enough in this space. But they’re living and breathing the region, reporting on it from the front lines in Sana’a and Mosul and Riyadh and Cairo. These are our women on the ground.” The bo OWOTG is a collection of essays by Arab women journalists edited by Lebanese-British Zahra Hankir. She wrote that she created the anthology because she’d been desperate to see a book like that on bookshelves, “one that brings attention to underreported tales and the women who tell them. Arab women aren’t heard enough in this space. But they’re living and breathing the region, reporting on it from the front lines in Sana’a and Mosul and Riyadh and Cairo. These are our women on the ground.” The book covers a wide array of opinions and subjects, and features several Arab countries, although I found that it was a bit too centred around Syrian and Lebanese journalists. I would’ve loved to see more from Maghreb countries. That being said, the quality of the writing and editing is impeccable. Nada Bakri’s chapter ‘Love and Loss in a Time of Revolution’, in which she narrates the loss of her journalist husband Anthony while he was reporting the Syrian conflict, is beautiful. The story is utterly heartbreaking, and her ability to convey pain is truly remarkable. My favourite chapter is Natacha Yazbeck’s essay ‘Spin’. It chronicles the story of her family’s immigration from Lebanon in such a moving way. It is a captivating and moving story, and her storytelling is incredible. Also, she made the most gorgeous reference to my favourite Toni Morrison novel, and I must admit I was sold pretty quickly. I have to say though, I felt an overwhelming presence of secularism, which of course isn’t a problem, but I wish there’d been more representation of religious points of view (any religion). There’s also this recurring anti-hijab sentiment every now and then that I was a bit annoyed at, but I was expecting it a bit. There’s one chapter that I unfortunately rolled my eyes at throughout. Overall this is an incredible book, one I had been looking forward to reading a lot and which didn’t disappoint. It is extremely informative, it will teach you so much about the MENA region, it is nuanced and it is difficult not to be moved by the different accounts. I was so humbled and impressed by these women’s courage and willingness to report such authentic stories. I highly recommend.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Just recently, Twitter brought my attention to a review at The Asian Review of Books: a collection called Our Women on the Ground, Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World, edited by Zahra Hankir. I bought a Kindle edition of it there and then. Because just as I found Mercé Rodoreda's fiction set in the Spanish Civil War compelling, I wanted to read women's points of view about the conflicts in the Middle East. After all, in modern conflict, it is nearly always women who bear the brunt of it. The Just recently, Twitter brought my attention to a review at The Asian Review of Books: a collection called Our Women on the Ground, Arab Women Reporting from the Arab World, edited by Zahra Hankir. I bought a Kindle edition of it there and then. Because just as I found Mercé Rodoreda's fiction set in the Spanish Civil War compelling, I wanted to read women's points of view about the conflicts in the Middle East. After all, in modern conflict, it is nearly always women who bear the brunt of it. The collection comprises nineteen Arab women journalists reporting on their homelands. The foreword by Christiane Amanpour reminds the reader that the Balkan Wars of the 1990s brought an end to immunity for journalists. They were no longer considered objective witnesses. Regardless of gender, they became targets. Journalism has become a very dangerous profession, perhaps especially so when reporting on movements for reform in a corrupt regime or in a murderous genocidal state like Islamic State a.k.a. Daesh. We are told in the introduction by Zahra Hankir that some of the journalists (sahafiyat) featured in this book have been sexually assaulted, threatened, propositioned, detained or even shot at while on the job. The book pays homage to those who have died as well. The Middle East and North Africa is the most dangerous area anywhere in the world for journalists. It is obviously more difficult for women to be journalists in some cultures than in others. In the Middle East and other conservative societies, societal norms discourage women from journalism. It can mean defying family and community, and it brings unique challenges and entails sacrifices specific to women. At the same time, in pursuit of getting a full understanding of a story by including the female perspective, women can sometimes enter places where men cannot go, and they can sometimes access people more freely than men can. (Geraldine Brooks wrote about this in Nine Parts of Desire, if I remember correctly). The first piece, 'The Woman Question' by Hannah Allam, begins by introducing the spaces where she found her stories during the Iraq War: in kitchens without electricity; in a bedroom with a mortar crater in the ceiling; in a beauty salon, or during 'Ladies Hour' in a hotel swimming pool. And then she goes on to say that her reports are more representative because the years of war have resulted in a population where more than half the people are women, and many of them are heads of the household because their men were dead or missing or exiled. The footage of car bombings that was on our screens throughout 2006 seems different when you look at it from a woman's point-of-view. Daily car deaths often had death tolls of eighty or more, and most casualties were men because of the venues where the bombings occurred. That meant eighty new widows and dozens of newly fatherless children. Each week 500+ Iraqi women became the breadwinner. At their most desperate, some women entered into so-called temporary marriages that weren't intended to last long. Essentially, these marriage were prostitution with a thin veneer: men with money to spare would pay the women in exchange for sex, but because the couple was technically 'married', however briefly, the arrangement was deemed legitimate according to some Shi'a Islamic rulings. A widow named Nisreen told me her hands shook and her face reddened with shame when she signed a temporary marriage contract in exchange for fifteen dollars a month plus groceries and clothes for her five children. 'My son calls me a bad woman, a prostitute. My children have no idea I did this for their sake,' Nisreen said. ('The Woman Question' by Hannah Allam, p. 4) I think that many Western feminists will bristle at the hypocrisy of this, in a society that forces women to cover up in the name of modesty: Even in wartime, women in Najaf wear abayas, long billowy robes that leave only their faces, hands and feet exposed. I remember sweat trickling down my back as I crouched in the courtyard listening to gunfire. Running in an abaya was a special skill that we honed each time we had to take cover: you use your left hand to hold the silky fabric under yoru chin to keep it in place and your right hand to hike up the bottom to free your feet. (ibid, p.10) To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2019/12/26/o...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    can't think of a more indispensable book for 2019

  15. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    thoughts coming shortly

  16. 4 out of 5

    Claritybear

    It took me a few more months than I would have thought to finish this. These journalists’ incredibly powerful essays deserve to be taken slowly and given thought and respect. The writing of each woman is vivid and real but each in their own styles and reflective of their own experiences. As a whole there are many themes that tie together-the issues of gender in the profession and in their countries, the dedication and focus to their work, their understanding of how crucial that work was and is-t It took me a few more months than I would have thought to finish this. These journalists’ incredibly powerful essays deserve to be taken slowly and given thought and respect. The writing of each woman is vivid and real but each in their own styles and reflective of their own experiences. As a whole there are many themes that tie together-the issues of gender in the profession and in their countries, the dedication and focus to their work, their understanding of how crucial that work was and is-those echo through each essay. But there are differences between them all as well as each writer shares parts of her life-her family, her friends, her losses, and her excitement at what she did-those are all distinctly their own. This is an important collection to read, especially in this time of attacks on journalists, the press, the art of journalism itself-both internationally and in my own country-attacks that come from some of the most powerful people in the world.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty Mcdougall

    I feel that my review could never do these 19 intriguing, important and gorgeous essays justice! There is so much depth and each essay alone is an enlightening and refreshing piece that is educational because of the honesty and rawness of the writing. Every one of these women are so inspiring. Thank you to the Reading Women for introducing me to this collection. I will be gifting and recommending this book to everyone!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JC-S)

    ‘The tragedy of war, of course, is that no one emerges unscathed.’ So much of the coverage of events in the Arab world is provided through Western eyes. This view is restricted by their (and our) understanding of what are often complex situations. Could we understand the issues better if we were seeing them through several different eyes? Would we respond differently? In this book, edited by Zahra Hankir, nineteen Arab women contribute essays about their experiences as journalists, reporters and p ‘The tragedy of war, of course, is that no one emerges unscathed.’ So much of the coverage of events in the Arab world is provided through Western eyes. This view is restricted by their (and our) understanding of what are often complex situations. Could we understand the issues better if we were seeing them through several different eyes? Would we respond differently? In this book, edited by Zahra Hankir, nineteen Arab women contribute essays about their experiences as journalists, reporters and photographers. ‘My intention in creating this anthology was to help ensure that the voices of the women who are striving to shape and document Arab history now are amplified, and to give them space to speak for themselves, without projecting themes of women’s issues and patriarchy onto them.’ Nineteen extraordinary women. Courageous women, who understand the cultures within which they work and live, who report firsthand the human impacts of war. Consider the impact of car bombings, when most of the victims were men. One immediate consequence is that most of those men left behind widows, who then had to provide for their families. Consider how they might do this. Most reportage of war focusses on numbers (of people killed, buildings destroyed, of the amount of territory changing hands, types and numbers of weapons used). This reportage focusses on the impact of war on people. And yes, it is uncomfortable reading. How do you comfort a woman who has lost a child? How can you report about the refugees fleeing violence in Syria, carrying possessions and children? People, not numbers. Some of the women reporting are aware that it is luck that separates them from the fate of those they are reporting about. The good fortune of living in London, rather than in ISIS country. ‘I felt like a vulture – a journalist who swooped in, got my story, and flew out.’ This is an unsettling read, far from the mostly depersonalised summaries of events we’ve received through Western media. I am in awe of the courage of these women, of the work they have done to report their experiences. Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    A searingly honest and important collection of accounts and experiences from female Arab reporters. This is a book that requires the reader take time to process and absorb. Each reporter gives a powerful, direct account that does not attempt to paint a rosy-picture where there isn't one. This is not to say that there is no hope depicted in these chapters; many of the writers do leave room for hope and optimism for the future, but they also do not shy away from the harsh realities of current even A searingly honest and important collection of accounts and experiences from female Arab reporters. This is a book that requires the reader take time to process and absorb. Each reporter gives a powerful, direct account that does not attempt to paint a rosy-picture where there isn't one. This is not to say that there is no hope depicted in these chapters; many of the writers do leave room for hope and optimism for the future, but they also do not shy away from the harsh realities of current events and how they are feeling in light of those: "I turned thirty-seven in January. But the last birthday I remember was my thirty-first. I cannot account for the last six years of my life. I have forced myself into an exile and an isolation that is now so strong I cannot seem to break free" (27). I believe that everyone should read this book in order to obtain a fuller understanding of these regions and cultures and the effect had on the people living there.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Phoebe

    These essays are brtually honest, and not for the faint for heart. Kudos to the women who wrote from their heart, minds. and souls—showing how strength and vulnerability are really a mobius strip of humanity.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    This was so incredibly moving, powerful and inspiring!! Without a doubt one of the most needed books I've read in a while and I think everyone should read this.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Shane

    Continuing my trend of books I'm not really sure how to review - war reporting! Heavy but important reading, basically.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Absolutely fantastic! Everyone should read this book. I left feeling like these women let me into their lives, which gave me a very different perspective on the Arab world.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    EVERYONE should read this book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This is an excellent read. These women all have unique perspectives on the Middle East, thanks to their nationalities, their religious backgrounds, their upbringing, and, perhaps most importantly, their gender. They're often restricted by their sex when travelling and reporting, but being female has also given them access to people and stories that male reporters could never get. I've spent years dealing with the Middle East in a professional capacity, but I'm always amazed by how much I miss fro This is an excellent read. These women all have unique perspectives on the Middle East, thanks to their nationalities, their religious backgrounds, their upbringing, and, perhaps most importantly, their gender. They're often restricted by their sex when travelling and reporting, but being female has also given them access to people and stories that male reporters could never get. I've spent years dealing with the Middle East in a professional capacity, but I'm always amazed by how much I miss from one day to the next until I read stories and reporting like this. There is so much happening on the ground that we'd never see if it weren't for ballsy journalists who walk right into some of the most dangerous places on Earth, and I admire the hell out of them. That there are women who have the courage to go to places like ISIS-occupied Raqqah, where a misplaced look or a hijab out of place could get you killed, is, in my humble opinion, nothing short of heroic. For anyone interested in female perspectives on the area, or just more intimate reporting on conflict zones in places like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya, I highly recommend this.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brittany

    A moving, powerful and astonishing collection. Truly a must-read. I learned so much about the complexities of the Arab world and its sociopolitical histories as told through the experiences of women. This will be a collection to which I return again and again.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Aisha (thatothernigeriangirl)

    *A special thanks to Vintage for sending me a proof of this book* Our Women On The Ground is a collection of 19 essays by female journalists and photojournalists in the MENA region. In a monumental intro, editor Zahra Hankir highlighted various whys that prompted this an anthology; most notably to preserve the narratives of sahafiya striving to document the Arab history. The sahafiya (women journalists) who contributed to this book strive(d) to do their job despite the combined struggles of being *A special thanks to Vintage for sending me a proof of this book* Our Women On The Ground is a collection of 19 essays by female journalists and photojournalists in the MENA region. In a monumental intro, editor Zahra Hankir highlighted various whys that prompted this an anthology; most notably to preserve the narratives of sahafiya striving to document the Arab history. The sahafiya (women journalists) who contributed to this book strive(d) to do their job despite the combined struggles of being a female reporter and a MENA woman. Yet, they are still among some of the most repressed reporters in the world. The 19 essays were divided into 5 categories; remembrances, crossfire, resilience, exile and transition; all of which are states that result from war. A book like this is vital because we don’t often hear news from the region directly from ‘sahafiya’ which is unsettling. The essays were told in an effortless way that they don’t fit into the widespread misconceptions about MENA women. Hankir, along with most of the contributors emphasized that although they faced backlash and setbacks because of their gender, they also enjoyed intimate and exclusive intel because of it. This is a breath of fresh air because even though being a MENA woman isn’t rosy, they still managed to find some sort of collateral beauty in their struggles. That to me, is very empowering. I enjoyed all but one essay, which is a big deal for a lover of anthologies like me. The sense of objectivity of the sahafiyah was noticeable through out the book and some of them had very fluid writing style. Spin by Natacha Yazbeck was poetic and Amira Al-Sharif’s tenacity in Yemeni Women With Fighting Spirits was contagious. While all the contributors covered war at some points in their lives, they don’t have similar thoughts about the uprisings in the region. Some of them believe the uprisings created a bedrock for coming positive changes and some believe it did otherwise. This difference of opinions add the extra sauce to the book. Mariam Antar also did a stupendous job with the translation of the essays originally written in Arabic. I didn’t get the sense that they were ‘forced’ or ‘missing something’. In summary, I highly recommend this collection!!!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laura Hill

    This is a hard book to read, but will open your eyes to whole worlds that exist just across the ocean. These 19 female journalists write about the stories they cover across the countries in the Middle East. From Syria to Iraq to Lebanon to Yemen (and more), they describe the world behind the political and military statistics — the civilian individuals (often women and children) trying to survive in a world gone crazy. From years without power, to the random and constant acts of violence, to the This is a hard book to read, but will open your eyes to whole worlds that exist just across the ocean. These 19 female journalists write about the stories they cover across the countries in the Middle East. From Syria to Iraq to Lebanon to Yemen (and more), they describe the world behind the political and military statistics — the civilian individuals (often women and children) trying to survive in a world gone crazy. From years without power, to the random and constant acts of violence, to the impact of a single car bomb on the rest of the community, these women bring to life a whole realm of existence that is hard for a Westerner to imagine. In many cases, we are reminded of how “normal” life was in the very recent past. It’s a harsh reminder that yes, no place or system or way of life is immune to the possibilities of sudden and violent destruction. The essays are very personal, in many cases exposing the difficulties of being a female journalist, the impact on her life, the hopelessness of covering what feels like endless stupidity and ritualized anger. Some are heartfelt but rambling, others provide clear, coherent overviews and analyses of the situations, many expose details that enable the reader to understand a little more about how things evolved, and almost all stimulate a compassion that unfortunately have no real place to go. Definitely worth reading, though give yourself time and take some breaks to keep from sinking into a useless despair. Thank you to Penguin Books and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on August 6, 2019.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    A collection of essays by Arab women journalists from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, this book gives such an unique perspective into each of these countries and the life of a journalist. It also made motivated to subscribe to the NYT to support the journalists who put their lives on the line so that we can learn the truth of our world. Wonderful, inspiring, harrowing read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jade

    This collection of essays is incredible. Timely, important, and just incredible. Every single one of them caught me in a different way, and I was unable to put the book down unless I was between essays. So many stories that we don’t hear, so many names that we should know, so many words and events that we can learn from. What stuck me the most about this anthology was how deeply personal each essay is, and how much of themselves these women have given to us, the reader, to their country, to the This collection of essays is incredible. Timely, important, and just incredible. Every single one of them caught me in a different way, and I was unable to put the book down unless I was between essays. So many stories that we don’t hear, so many names that we should know, so many words and events that we can learn from. What stuck me the most about this anthology was how deeply personal each essay is, and how much of themselves these women have given to us, the reader, to their country, to the world around them. There is also so much strength and honesty within these pages. Our Women on the Ground is a collection of essays written by 19 female Arab journalists, with stories from Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt amidst other Middle Eastern and African countries, edited and compiled by Zahra Hankir. The perspectives of these women are in my opinion of utmost importance: they are reporting directly on the ground, from within their own countries and/or on countries around them, providing us with a view that we are not likely to get from the usual western correspondents that our media outlets employ. Every single one of these essays struck me, and as I was reading I jotted down some notes here and there, which is why this review is so long… I can’t emphasize enough how inspiring and important these women are. Nada Bakri’s essay broke my heart. Her absolute loss is palpable through the entire essay. I am so glad that her voice was part of this collection though, as she was a reporter on the ground way before she met her husband Anthony Shadid. It saddens me that she quit journalism after she lost her husband, but I can understand it too. That she wrote this essay is I think a gift to us all, one that must have been incredibly hard for her to write. Natacha Yazbeck’s words are stuck in my brain and in my heart - a reminder that there is so much that we don’t understand, and refuse to understand, in the west, and also a stark reminder of how much we pick and choose what we want to read about, see, hear. Children are still starving in Yemen. Children are still dying in Yemen. Nour Malas’ honesty was so striking to me, how honest she is about her profession, her background, her feelings, and especially how easy it is to use one to benefit the other, but also how it is difficult to keep one apart from the other, creating situations that are hard to navigate. Eman Halal’s essay on misogyny in Egypt was very interesting to me, having spent time travelling around the country in 2004 I always felt like there were eyes on me everywhere, but put it down to just being a tourist. It’s also interesting because in general, (white) western reports tend to group all Muslim women together when discussing oppression/religion/clothing preferences etc, when each country is different, and within each country there may also be many differences. Aida Alami’s essay felt nearly personal for me, having grown up in France as an immigrant I was always fully aware of how different immigrant groups were treated, and also aware of my privilege as a white immigrant. France is a difficult country to understand, with a difficult history that is often swept under the flag of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, where no one tries to understand the very distinct issues that first, second, third generation immigrants from Northern African countries often face. I am looking forward to seeing the journalist’s work on her documentary France’s Children! Shamael Elnoor’s essay on her life as a journalist and experiences navigating Sudan is incredible. Her mission to remain honest and to continue to tell the truth, no matter the dangers that she is exposed to is amazing, and so inspiring. While every single essay in this anthology is inspiring, I think this one really hit home to me how much more work I can do to change the world, especially when there are women such as Shamael Elnoor, Asmaa Al-Ghoul, Heba Shibani, Amira Al-Sharif continue to raise their voices, even when they face unimaginable dangers. I burst into tears at the end of Amira Al-Sharif’s essay: her courage and strength are so admirable, and her drive to shoe the world who Yemeni women really are is so important. Heba Shibani talks of an issue that I had no idea about (most of us probably don’t): that women in Libya are not able to pass their nationality on to their children if their children were born to a father of a different nationality. The stories of broken families and sadness brought me to tears. I think of all the time I wasn’t able to live in the same country as my mother and siblings, and how painful it was, and the idea of being separated from my own children causes me terrible anxiety, so this really hit home for me. Finally, I loved reading Donna Abu-Nasr’s essay on Saudi Arabia. It is a country I know too little about, and am interested in reading more about it (from a woman’s point of view). I learnt so much from these women, and am incredibly thankful for their work, their continuous push to report on events, conditions, places, and people that are often not deemed important enough, visible enough (when they are), sometimes in areas of extreme danger (war, bombs, militias, or for just being women in a place that women are just not supposed to be). Their efforts to quash stereotypes, to show truths, and to portray their worlds honestly, with all of the complications, differences, beauties, and darkness is amazing.

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