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An Egyptian woman's reflections on her changing homeland—updated with an afterword on the Arab Spring In language that vividly evokes the lush summers of Cairo and the stark beauty of the Arabian desert, Leila Ahmed movingly recounts her Egyptian childhood growing up in a rich tradition of Islamic women and describes how she eventually came to terms with her identity as a f An Egyptian woman's reflections on her changing homeland—updated with an afterword on the Arab Spring In language that vividly evokes the lush summers of Cairo and the stark beauty of the Arabian desert, Leila Ahmed movingly recounts her Egyptian childhood growing up in a rich tradition of Islamic women and describes how she eventually came to terms with her identity as a feminist living in America. As a young woman in Cairo in the forties and fifties, Ahmed witnessed some of the major transformations of this century—the end of British colonialism, the rise of Arab nationalism, and the breakdown of Egypt's once multireligious society. As today's Egypt continues to undergo revolutionary change, Ahmed's inspirational story remains as poignant and relevant as ever.


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An Egyptian woman's reflections on her changing homeland—updated with an afterword on the Arab Spring In language that vividly evokes the lush summers of Cairo and the stark beauty of the Arabian desert, Leila Ahmed movingly recounts her Egyptian childhood growing up in a rich tradition of Islamic women and describes how she eventually came to terms with her identity as a f An Egyptian woman's reflections on her changing homeland—updated with an afterword on the Arab Spring In language that vividly evokes the lush summers of Cairo and the stark beauty of the Arabian desert, Leila Ahmed movingly recounts her Egyptian childhood growing up in a rich tradition of Islamic women and describes how she eventually came to terms with her identity as a feminist living in America. As a young woman in Cairo in the forties and fifties, Ahmed witnessed some of the major transformations of this century—the end of British colonialism, the rise of Arab nationalism, and the breakdown of Egypt's once multireligious society. As today's Egypt continues to undergo revolutionary change, Ahmed's inspirational story remains as poignant and relevant as ever.

30 review for A Border Passage: From Cairo to America – A Woman's Journey

  1. 4 out of 5

    Suhaib

    This entire memoir is like an impressionist painting. Every page was breathtaking, whether it was the memory of the author as a child, lying under a starlit Alexandria sky with her grandmother on the 27th night of Ramadan, waiting for angels, or her many passages about her strained yet loving relationship with her mother. Leila Ahmed masterfully weaves history together with memory, and paints a picture of mid-20th century Egypt as a multilingual, religiously diverse nation unaffected by the tumu This entire memoir is like an impressionist painting. Every page was breathtaking, whether it was the memory of the author as a child, lying under a starlit Alexandria sky with her grandmother on the 27th night of Ramadan, waiting for angels, or her many passages about her strained yet loving relationship with her mother. Leila Ahmed masterfully weaves history together with memory, and paints a picture of mid-20th century Egypt as a multilingual, religiously diverse nation unaffected by the tumultuous politics of the rest of the Middle East. And while I couldn't get enough of her beautiful childhood memories, the real worth of this novel comes from Ahmed's masterful deconstruction of the categorization of Egyptians as "Arab." She's a fierce critic of Arab nationalism, and uses the entire novel as a prelude to the final section where she sheds light on the politics behind the notion of Arabness. This is one of the best memoirs I've ever read, and I'll probably pick it up again soon enough.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rubayya

    This book is really, really good. It starts a little slow and muddled but the speed at which it progresses is reflective of the author's sharpening of her outlook and identity. Reading this book, I realized how similar the experience of growing up in a British colony, Egypt, is to growing up as an immigrant, minority, and Muslim in America. She vividly portrays a conflicted sense of self with which I can identify strongly and resolves her sense of conflict in a way that is healing, even to me. T This book is really, really good. It starts a little slow and muddled but the speed at which it progresses is reflective of the author's sharpening of her outlook and identity. Reading this book, I realized how similar the experience of growing up in a British colony, Egypt, is to growing up as an immigrant, minority, and Muslim in America. She vividly portrays a conflicted sense of self with which I can identify strongly and resolves her sense of conflict in a way that is healing, even to me. This was an insightful and informative read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jacki

    A Border Passage is a personal memoir of Ahmed's childhood in Cairo, her academic life in England, and her professional life in America. She weaves a beautifual story of the impact of imperialism and the Eygptian revolutions on her life and the life of her family. She struggles with racism when there was no such word. She brings the reader to a place of contemplation as they begin to see the world from a non-Western point of view. Ahmed is a skilled writer, able to a story that is intriguing and A Border Passage is a personal memoir of Ahmed's childhood in Cairo, her academic life in England, and her professional life in America. She weaves a beautifual story of the impact of imperialism and the Eygptian revolutions on her life and the life of her family. She struggles with racism when there was no such word. She brings the reader to a place of contemplation as they begin to see the world from a non-Western point of view. Ahmed is a skilled writer, able to a story that is intriguing and extremely eye-opening for Western readers. Each page I turned I learned just a bit, leaving me questioning many of my own perceptions about my childhood and adult life. A Border Passage explores many topics, most interesting to myself was an examination of women's Islam and whether Eygptians should be grouped into the label of Arab. These are two topics which are rarely discussed at cocktail parties, at least not in the Midwest, but worth examining further. Highly recommended for anyone wishing to learn more about Eygpt, Islam, and want Westerner's consider the Arab world.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    a beautifully conceived, articulated, and experienced memoir.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    I don't remember how I learned of this book, but it had been on my "to read" shelf for over a year. The book is a memoir of Leila Ahmed, an Egyptian author and feminist. It details her life beginning with the British occupation through current times. The book gives a glimpse of life for foreign students (for this woman, it was in England), and sheds light on Egypt's unique role in the Arab world. She also finishes with the feminist movement and her difficulty in relating this movement to a cultu I don't remember how I learned of this book, but it had been on my "to read" shelf for over a year. The book is a memoir of Leila Ahmed, an Egyptian author and feminist. It details her life beginning with the British occupation through current times. The book gives a glimpse of life for foreign students (for this woman, it was in England), and sheds light on Egypt's unique role in the Arab world. She also finishes with the feminist movement and her difficulty in relating this movement to a culture where women are rich in their historical and oral traditions yet so outwardly cloistered. The book is a little difficult to read in that the sentence structure and vocabulary are complex; but for anyone who has interest in Egypt or the Arab world, this book fills in a lot of information regarding life "Post Ottoman" through the development of the Arab League. The book is instructional, but also personal - a wonderful combination.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Women's National Book Association of New Orleans

    The Women's National Book Association sent this book to the White House today (March 19) in honor of Women's History Month: https://www.wnba-centennial.org/book-... From the Women's National Book Association's press release: In this deeply personal and moving memoir, Laila Ahmed traces her transformation, along with that of her native Egypt, across six decades. A woman born in 1940 in Cairo into relative privilege and educated at Cambridge University as Egypt was undergoing radical political chang The Women's National Book Association sent this book to the White House today (March 19) in honor of Women's History Month: https://www.wnba-centennial.org/book-... From the Women's National Book Association's press release: In this deeply personal and moving memoir, Laila Ahmed traces her transformation, along with that of her native Egypt, across six decades. A woman born in 1940 in Cairo into relative privilege and educated at Cambridge University as Egypt was undergoing radical political change, Ahmed eventually finds herself as an expatriate academic in New England in 1981. The personal story gains wider meaning as Ahmed explores her own story in the larger context of massive political, social, and cultural shifts—from the end of British colonialism to the rise of Arab nationalism in her native Egypt. The author’s afterword in this edition brings the story up to date, as she reflects on the promise and turbulence of the Arab Spring.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Atharv G.

    This was a really beautiful account of the author's life that also makes for an easily digestible overview of Egyptian history from the turn of the century to Nasser's time. The author is forthcoming with her biases as a member of the upper classes, which was good to see. The whole text is stunningly written, and all the people and places she describes come to life so wonderfully. Reading this book really was a feast for the senses. Some of the more fascinating discussions that Ahmed engages inv This was a really beautiful account of the author's life that also makes for an easily digestible overview of Egyptian history from the turn of the century to Nasser's time. The author is forthcoming with her biases as a member of the upper classes, which was good to see. The whole text is stunningly written, and all the people and places she describes come to life so wonderfully. Reading this book really was a feast for the senses. Some of the more fascinating discussions that Ahmed engages involve women's conceptions of Islam and what it felt like to be a woman of color at Cambridge in the 1960s. So many of her ideas are still all too relevant over twenty years after the book was first published. I would highly encourage people to pick this book up if they are at all interested in modern Egyptian history, women in academia, or women in Islam.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amina Rayan

    You know how they say there is a right time to read a certain book? I definitely picked up Leila Ahmed’s memoir „A Border Passage: From Cairo to America - A Woman’s Journey“ at the perfect moment. I had just returned from Egypt and was in desperate need of a consoling read as I was missing Egypt in the midst of a grim Berlin winter. Leila Ahmed is a Harvard Professor specialized in Islam and Islamic feminism. In her memoir, she reviews her life beginning in Cairo where she was born in 1940, being You know how they say there is a right time to read a certain book? I definitely picked up Leila Ahmed’s memoir „A Border Passage: From Cairo to America - A Woman’s Journey“ at the perfect moment. I had just returned from Egypt and was in desperate need of a consoling read as I was missing Egypt in the midst of a grim Berlin winter. Leila Ahmed is a Harvard Professor specialized in Islam and Islamic feminism. In her memoir, she reviews her life beginning in Cairo where she was born in 1940, being a student at Cambridge and ultimately settling in the US. I absolutely, very much enjoyed this book. It has everything: It is written beautifully and has a gripping story. While looking back at her life Ahmed touches on many topics and shares her smart and enriching thoughts on them: On identifying as Egyptian rather than Arab, how it was Arab nationalism under Nasser that suddenly forced Egyptians to identify as Arab, how - before that - it was the British colonialists who promoted Arab nationalism in the Middle East to enforce their own interests. She speaks of her father, who was a critic of the construction of the high dam in Asswan, her encounters with racism as a student in Cambridge at a time when there was no language yet to describe racism and her experiences with white feminism as a young professor in the US. She also offers her views on „Women’s Islam“ - a practice that differs significantly from official Islam that has been dubbed by men and which she elaborates on in her book "Gender and Women in Islam". I think I made a point of how rich and enriching this memoir is. Lastly, I would like to share my fav quote: „I found myself thinking enviously that this was what I would like to be writing, something that would affirm my community in exile. Something that would remind its members of how lovely our lives, our countries, our ways are. How lovely our literature. What a fine thing, whatever it is people say of us, what a fine thing it is, in spite of them all, to be Arab; what a wonderful heritage we have. Something that would sustain them. Sustain us.“ (p 253) . . follow my book reviews on Instagram @khawada___

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lena

    This book took me a long time to read. It was the author's story essentially of the geography of her life, beginning in Cairo after WW2, when Egypt was still under British colonial rule. The author came from an upper class background, and discussed the ease and enjoyment of her early life. Then came the revolution, and things changed. Still, she was able to leave Egypt for an education, but at that point discovered that she was "black" - and not upper class British or French. She goes on to disc This book took me a long time to read. It was the author's story essentially of the geography of her life, beginning in Cairo after WW2, when Egypt was still under British colonial rule. The author came from an upper class background, and discussed the ease and enjoyment of her early life. Then came the revolution, and things changed. Still, she was able to leave Egypt for an education, but at that point discovered that she was "black" - and not upper class British or French. She goes on to discuss the revelations of how race, ethnicity, gender, and social status affected not only her outlook on life, but the circumstances under which she lived. After earning her PhD she worked in Dubai, aiming to include women within the newly setup education system. This led her to Women's Studies which she taught in the US - learning that first world women have a different outlook from third world women on the meaning of this discipline. This particularly interested me as I remembered some of the newspaper articles from International Women's Year in 1975, discussing the dichotomy women's issues in the Western world vs. the third world. As I am currently unused to reading books without a mystery or plot, this took me extra effort and time to read. And in spite of the fact that I am also unused to reading books that challenge my intellect, I found the effort very worth while.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    This is an intellectually stimulating and beautifully memoir. It reflects the formative moments of Leila Ahmed's life while simultaneously investigating questions of imperialism, culture, religion, identity, feminism, race, literacy, politics, literature, Egypt, and Arabness at a level exceptionally perceptive and thorough. Ahmed draws a complex portrait of her childhood in Egypt and experiences in British academia. Her critical eye and articulate voice combine to form a rich memoir, one which p This is an intellectually stimulating and beautifully memoir. It reflects the formative moments of Leila Ahmed's life while simultaneously investigating questions of imperialism, culture, religion, identity, feminism, race, literacy, politics, literature, Egypt, and Arabness at a level exceptionally perceptive and thorough. Ahmed draws a complex portrait of her childhood in Egypt and experiences in British academia. Her critical eye and articulate voice combine to form a rich memoir, one which perhaps leaves the reader with more questions that he or she started with, in realization of the complexity of the issues Ahmed takes on.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Leila Ahmed is a terrific writer, but I have the same problems with her memoir that I have with memoirs in general. Memoirs, in my opinion, only work as a part of some larger context than one's self, and while Ahmed does better than most, she still gets bogged down in personal minutiae that bare little relevance to that context and, ultimately, bore the shit out of me. Her best work comes toward the end, when she really dug in to the point of her memoir: searching for her identity as a feminist Leila Ahmed is a terrific writer, but I have the same problems with her memoir that I have with memoirs in general. Memoirs, in my opinion, only work as a part of some larger context than one's self, and while Ahmed does better than most, she still gets bogged down in personal minutiae that bare little relevance to that context and, ultimately, bore the shit out of me. Her best work comes toward the end, when she really dug in to the point of her memoir: searching for her identity as a feminist Muslim at the end of European colonialism in Egypt. If she stuck more ardently to this context throughout, this book would have been a real winner.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    If you like this book, then you might also like this autobiographical novel of Egyptian author / feminist / intellectual Radwa Ashour: أطياف / Specters, and also the film "Four Women of Egypt" (1997), available on YouTube at the time of writing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k995gi... If you like this book, then you might also like this autobiographical novel of Egyptian author / feminist / intellectual Radwa Ashour: أطياف / Specters, and also the film "Four Women of Egypt" (1997), available on YouTube at the time of writing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k995gi...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karin

    This is a wonderfully written memoir of an Egyptian woman/academic who, through her own memories, documents the changes that have occurred in Egyptian society from the Colonial period to modern-day Egypt. It is a personal account, but I learned a lot about the country's history from it. Her writing is beautiful and, at times, even lyrical, making this not only educational but also a pleasure to read. This is a wonderfully written memoir of an Egyptian woman/academic who, through her own memories, documents the changes that have occurred in Egyptian society from the Colonial period to modern-day Egypt. It is a personal account, but I learned a lot about the country's history from it. Her writing is beautiful and, at times, even lyrical, making this not only educational but also a pleasure to read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Allison Le Grice

    Disappointing. It was so clear that she was a well-educated woman with an extremely valuable experience to share, but I felt like I was reading continuous thought vomit. She's a beautiful writer, but I felt she could have arranged it better to be more effective. However, the message was great. Disappointing. It was so clear that she was a well-educated woman with an extremely valuable experience to share, but I felt like I was reading continuous thought vomit. She's a beautiful writer, but I felt she could have arranged it better to be more effective. However, the message was great.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ophelia

    I had to read this for a class, and it is the first memoir I’ve ever read. I was not disappointed. I learned an incredible amount about Egypt in the twentieth century, along with the concept of Arab-ness, especially as it pertains to Muslim women. Ahmed’s writing is lyrical and beautiful that at times I forgot it was nonfiction. Her story gave me chills, tears, and most of all, hope.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kristine Gift

    Realistically, I would rate this 3.5/5 rather than simply 3, were that an option. I was assigned this book for a class I took three years ago about the history of the modern Middle East, but then it was removed from the syllabus before classes began. But at graduation, another professor gave me a new copy of this book, and I took it as a sign that I should finally read Ahmed's book. In short, I'm glad I did; it was enlightening and interesting (especially the chapter(s?) about her college/grad s Realistically, I would rate this 3.5/5 rather than simply 3, were that an option. I was assigned this book for a class I took three years ago about the history of the modern Middle East, but then it was removed from the syllabus before classes began. But at graduation, another professor gave me a new copy of this book, and I took it as a sign that I should finally read Ahmed's book. In short, I'm glad I did; it was enlightening and interesting (especially the chapter(s?) about her college/grad school years, and it raised a lot of interesting points of women, Islam, Arabness, and the way that people form their opinions on identity and nationalism, etc. To make a short review long however, I felt that this book was not organized the best way possible. Often, especially in the first half, things felt a little jumbled. Additionally, I wish the narrative had been more engaging, less "I now realize that..." statements; I like reflections, but they were just too frequent to be appreciated by the time I was half way through. ((Btw, the afterword is great, so pick up a copy with an afterword! She discusses briefly 9/11 and the Arab Spring, so if you enjoyed what she had to say (as I did) the afterword is worth a read.)) Ahmed has a lot of good things to say and an interesting perspective, and while she doesn't encapsulate the experience of ALL Arab/Egyptian women, she represents herself very fairly, and if you don't go into the book with too many expectations, I think anyone interested in the Middle East and in women's studies will enjoy most -- if not all -- of Ahemd's written journey.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    Islamic feminist, Leila Ahmed’s memoir, A Border Passage: From Cairo to America-A Woman’s Journey, starts with Ahmed’s childhood in an upper-class Cairene family and ends with her becoming a professor of Women’s Studies and Near Eastern studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the early 1980s. A Border Passage covers her education in England in 1960s along with her time serving on a committee “to oversee the development and reform of education throughout the United Arab Emirates (UA Islamic feminist, Leila Ahmed’s memoir, A Border Passage: From Cairo to America-A Woman’s Journey, starts with Ahmed’s childhood in an upper-class Cairene family and ends with her becoming a professor of Women’s Studies and Near Eastern studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the early 1980s. A Border Passage covers her education in England in 1960s along with her time serving on a committee “to oversee the development and reform of education throughout the United Arab Emirates (UAE)” in the late 1970s, a job she had ambivalent feeling about. Large parts of the book are on her ambivalent “on becoming an Arab”. Before the rise of Arab nationalism in Egypt under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ahmed saw herself not as an Arab, but as an Egyptian. Ahmed is not against the use of “Arab” as an identity, but how that “Arab” identity has been used in Egypt politically, to exclude Egyptian Jews, Coptic Christians, and other non-Islamic “Arab” peoples from the national narrative troubling. Ahmed finds the spread of pan-Arab “standard” culture troubling. For example, during her time in the UAE, she found the local male in authority were much more open to women receiving education in science or engineering than her fellow non-Emirati Arab experts on the committee who were mainly Egyptians or Palestinians. I read the edition that had an afterword from 2012 that Ahmed response to the Arab Spring in Egypt and the role of Asma Mahfouz in those events. Ahmed’s A Border Passage is an interesting book because Ahmed applies her gender and post-colonial studies background to her personal history.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Adrianna Scibor

    Very well articulated thoughts and memories of a woman recounting her life as being born of two worlds in an Egypt much different than the one we know today. I admit it was hard to get through because I didn't understand her thinking at times but this book is a wonderful picture into the Egypt that once was. An Egypt more interested in being European. I have to say that some of the things about the author bothered me, for instance she could vividly recall sights and smells of her childhood home a Very well articulated thoughts and memories of a woman recounting her life as being born of two worlds in an Egypt much different than the one we know today. I admit it was hard to get through because I didn't understand her thinking at times but this book is a wonderful picture into the Egypt that once was. An Egypt more interested in being European. I have to say that some of the things about the author bothered me, for instance she could vividly recall sights and smells of her childhood home and of Cairo but could no remember the exact date of when her mother was born or when her Nanny or Father died. I understand that her mother did not want her altogether and it does not seem like she was very close with either of her parents but still. She had brothers and sisters and aunts to consult didn't she? Just like she gave up so quickly when trying to search for her parents graves at the cemetery...you could have gone back the next day and the next to make more of an effort. I don't know why this bothers me but it does. When she writes that now Egyptian people are so used to the idea of Egypt as an Arab nation that they never thought of themselves as any other way and her book shows how it was not always like this. I like that part because many people forget that detail. I also liked reading about her father and his role in studying and writing about the ecology of Egypt especially being against the Aswan dam which really has caused all the natural silt of the Nile to disappear. Overall, this was an interesting and eye-opening read and it gave me lots to mull over.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Phạm N.

    1 among a few interesting passages I found so far: "What was passed on, besides the general basic beliefs and moral ethos of Islam, which are also those of its sister monotheisms, was a way of being in the world. A way of holding oneself in the world - in relation to God, to existence, to other human beings. THis the women passed on to us most of all through how they were and by their being and presence, by the way they were in the world, conveying their beliefs, ways, thoughts, and how we shoul 1 among a few interesting passages I found so far: "What was passed on, besides the general basic beliefs and moral ethos of Islam, which are also those of its sister monotheisms, was a way of being in the world. A way of holding oneself in the world - in relation to God, to existence, to other human beings. THis the women passed on to us most of all through how they were and by their being and presence, by the way they were in the world, conveying their beliefs, ways, thoughts, and how we should be in the world by a touch, a glance, a word - prohibiting, for instance, or approving. Their mere responses in this or that situation - a word, a shrug, even just their postures - passed on to us, in the way that women (and also men) have forever passed on to their young, how we should be. And all of these ways of passing on attitudes, morals, beliefs, knowledge - through touch and the body and in words spoken in the living moment - are by their very nature subtle and evanescent. They profoundly shape the next generation, but they do not leave a record in the way that someone writing a text about how to live or what to believe leaves a record. Nevertheless, they leave a far more important and, literally, more vital, living record. Beliefs, morals, attitudes passed on to and impressed on us through those fleeting words and gestures are written into our very lives, our bodies, our selves, even into our physical cells and into how we live out the script of our lives."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Manon

    Yet another wealthy, Western-educated Arab woman who decides that her life story is interesting and valuable enough to be "the life story of the Middle Eastern Woman"! Leila Ahmed is a wonderful scholar and has made innumerable contributions to the field of Middle Eastern/Islamic gender studies, but this book is alas not one of them. Although it is well-written, the subject is very boring. Ahmed gives us snippets of a half-remembered priveleged childhood that she couldn't wait to escape by movin Yet another wealthy, Western-educated Arab woman who decides that her life story is interesting and valuable enough to be "the life story of the Middle Eastern Woman"! Leila Ahmed is a wonderful scholar and has made innumerable contributions to the field of Middle Eastern/Islamic gender studies, but this book is alas not one of them. Although it is well-written, the subject is very boring. Ahmed gives us snippets of a half-remembered priveleged childhood that she couldn't wait to escape by moving to England. To her credit, I don't believe that she intended this book to reflect on all other Middle Eastern women -- but we have done a good enough job of it ourselves! Readers must be careful to acknowledge that Ahmed's experiences are her own, and her education set her apart from most of the society in which she lived, a fact that becomes clear in the book. This book is a good description of the identity problems generated in upper classes by Arabism and Nasserism, but should not be misconstrued as representative of Middle Eastern women.

  21. 4 out of 5

    whereIreadthewords

    I don't even know where to start. It's difficult even to explain what this book is. Is it an autobiography about growing up in Cairo during the "Arab revolution" which swept the Middle East in the 1950s? Yes. Is it a memoir about being a Muslim/Arab/colored woman living in the West? Yes. Is it an anthropological glance into the "hidden world of the harem" with all it's difficulties and beauty? Yes. Is it a history of the Middle East's colonization, the impact that had on a people's self identity I don't even know where to start. It's difficult even to explain what this book is. Is it an autobiography about growing up in Cairo during the "Arab revolution" which swept the Middle East in the 1950s? Yes. Is it a memoir about being a Muslim/Arab/colored woman living in the West? Yes. Is it an anthropological glance into the "hidden world of the harem" with all it's difficulties and beauty? Yes. Is it a history of the Middle East's colonization, the impact that had on a people's self identity? Yes. Is it a biography of a stumbling journey to feminism? Yes. It's everything and more. This book is quite simply, a beautiful, poetic, literary journey through childhood to adulthood, a coming of age which stretches through out a life time, of compounding identities - most usually imposed by others. I just cannot state the beauty of this book, the magical qualities it effortlessly releases on the reader. It's lyrical and transporting. Highly recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    DROPPING OUT

    I read this book in 2000, shortly after it appeared. I met Professor Ahmed at a conference (where she did NOT speak about her book) and found her a very engaging presenter. The book covers three aspects of her life: her childhood in pre-revolutionary Egypt (i.e. before 1953); her education in English; and thereafter. Professor Ahmed, a relatively secularized and non-observant Muslim, has written extensively about women and their lives in the Middle East, as well as nascent feminism there. I was enc I read this book in 2000, shortly after it appeared. I met Professor Ahmed at a conference (where she did NOT speak about her book) and found her a very engaging presenter. The book covers three aspects of her life: her childhood in pre-revolutionary Egypt (i.e. before 1953); her education in English; and thereafter. Professor Ahmed, a relatively secularized and non-observant Muslim, has written extensively about women and their lives in the Middle East, as well as nascent feminism there. I was enchanted by the eloquent description of her childhood, for it dovetailed with the nostalgic descriptions of other women whom I have known who were born in Egypt, but left primarily because of the Revolution.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I read this for a book club. I really didn't know a lot about what's covered in this memoir--growing up in Egypt, the formation of Arab nationalism, what it's like to be a Muslim woman, what it's like to love aspects of the culture that has colonized you. One of the most interesting things about this book was described at the end when the author moves to the U.S. to be a women's studies professor, and oddly finds women's studies a very hostile environment to be in--a contradiction that I found t I read this for a book club. I really didn't know a lot about what's covered in this memoir--growing up in Egypt, the formation of Arab nationalism, what it's like to be a Muslim woman, what it's like to love aspects of the culture that has colonized you. One of the most interesting things about this book was described at the end when the author moves to the U.S. to be a women's studies professor, and oddly finds women's studies a very hostile environment to be in--a contradiction that I found through my studies in school led to some call for change in feminism. Overall it was a little dry sometimes but very interesting.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    This book effectively addresses the complications that exist in the crossing of different borders and cultures. Ahmed takes the time to introduce you to the life she lived as a young girl in Cairo. She takes you through the political situations and problems that shaped what Cairo has developed into today. In addition, she addresses the complications that occur through her travel to America in all the racism that she met with as she tried to meld into the colonial European world. I found this boo This book effectively addresses the complications that exist in the crossing of different borders and cultures. Ahmed takes the time to introduce you to the life she lived as a young girl in Cairo. She takes you through the political situations and problems that shaped what Cairo has developed into today. In addition, she addresses the complications that occur through her travel to America in all the racism that she met with as she tried to meld into the colonial European world. I found this book interesting but I wish I had had more time to read it. Since I read it for class I was somewhat rushed and did not get to enjoy it as much as I might have if I had read it on my own.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jillien

    I love autobiographies in general, but I especially loved this one. I really learned a lot about Egyptian history/politics, revealing a very tumultuous and transitory time in its history. (I especially found it interesting to learn about her father's position on the High Dam) Having lived in Cairo, reading about the earlier days of Egypt in this book was almost like reading about a fairytale dreamland- it was hard to believe Cairo (and Egypt) used to be SO different than what it is now. It can d I love autobiographies in general, but I especially loved this one. I really learned a lot about Egyptian history/politics, revealing a very tumultuous and transitory time in its history. (I especially found it interesting to learn about her father's position on the High Dam) Having lived in Cairo, reading about the earlier days of Egypt in this book was almost like reading about a fairytale dreamland- it was hard to believe Cairo (and Egypt) used to be SO different than what it is now. It can drag a bit in parts, but generally picks back up again quite quickly. It's an interesting story of Leila's personal development, a blend of both Eastern and Western elements/cultures.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alice

    The author is an academic, and it shows in her writing style. Sometimes she really went too far off into an academic discussion - but it was worth it. She explores ideas of Arab identity vs. Egyptian identity, oral traditions vs. written Islam, women's culture vs. men's culture, and what it means to be a non-European living in the west. It's the best discussion of the problem with traditional education and reliance on book learning that I've read. I had no idea that written Arabic was so differe The author is an academic, and it shows in her writing style. Sometimes she really went too far off into an academic discussion - but it was worth it. She explores ideas of Arab identity vs. Egyptian identity, oral traditions vs. written Islam, women's culture vs. men's culture, and what it means to be a non-European living in the west. It's the best discussion of the problem with traditional education and reliance on book learning that I've read. I had no idea that written Arabic was so different than spoken, colloquial Arabic as it's spoken in many different countries, and how this has influenced recent Islamic radicalism. Very interesting perspective.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    We started this interesting book in our reading group but I got caught up in too much else and, alas, it got laid by the wayside as so many books before it and since have done. It was a really interesting memoir about growing up in Egypt and coming, ultimately, to the west where freedoms for women are a given as opposed to an unthinkable. And all the fascinations and internal and ideological as well as political contradictions this created for Leila. It is a really interesting read... Fortunatel We started this interesting book in our reading group but I got caught up in too much else and, alas, it got laid by the wayside as so many books before it and since have done. It was a really interesting memoir about growing up in Egypt and coming, ultimately, to the west where freedoms for women are a given as opposed to an unthinkable. And all the fascinations and internal and ideological as well as political contradictions this created for Leila. It is a really interesting read... Fortunately, I came across it in the library the other day and am inspired to delve into it again. Hopefully I will... after getting through my endlessly long list of other 'to reads'!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    In this thoughtful memoir Ahmed reflects on multi-layered questions of identity in relation to gender, nation, and colonialism as well as family history, class, and schooling. The text is unsentimental and consistently intellectually engaging. To have a woman of Leila Ahmed intellectual stature (she is most recently professor of religion and women's studies at Harvard) reflect so beautifully on the intertwining of our most intimate identities and large historical and political forces is a gift. In this thoughtful memoir Ahmed reflects on multi-layered questions of identity in relation to gender, nation, and colonialism as well as family history, class, and schooling. The text is unsentimental and consistently intellectually engaging. To have a woman of Leila Ahmed intellectual stature (she is most recently professor of religion and women's studies at Harvard) reflect so beautifully on the intertwining of our most intimate identities and large historical and political forces is a gift.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I got this book for Christmas - my husband picked it out all by his onesie! - and I hoped for better things than Ahmad delivered. This is a woman who has led an intriguing life...but she writes in a style that is at once ornate and tedious. I got the impression that she thinks of her life as "a woman's journey", and she writes about that; but I wanted to know about Leila, about who she was and is, and she is oddly careful to hide all that. This is a memoir that reads like a sociology text...dull I got this book for Christmas - my husband picked it out all by his onesie! - and I hoped for better things than Ahmad delivered. This is a woman who has led an intriguing life...but she writes in a style that is at once ornate and tedious. I got the impression that she thinks of her life as "a woman's journey", and she writes about that; but I wanted to know about Leila, about who she was and is, and she is oddly careful to hide all that. This is a memoir that reads like a sociology text...dull, dull, dull.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    The author was born & raised in Egypt. Her family was wealthy & educated. Her father was an engineeer. Of course as a Muslim, she grew up mostly in the company of the women of her family. This was a required reading in one of Olivia's classes at OU. It is excellent in that it helped me understand the development of Egypt politically and culturally, the essence of the Arabic language, what it is to be an Arab, how the life of Muslim women changed through the years, and it helped me to develop an The author was born & raised in Egypt. Her family was wealthy & educated. Her father was an engineeer. Of course as a Muslim, she grew up mostly in the company of the women of her family. This was a required reading in one of Olivia's classes at OU. It is excellent in that it helped me understand the development of Egypt politically and culturally, the essence of the Arabic language, what it is to be an Arab, how the life of Muslim women changed through the years, and it helped me to develop an appreciation of the Muslims, the Arabs, & the Egyptians. She is a teacher at Harvard.

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