Hybrid and Hyphenated Arab Women’s English Narratives as a New Coming-of Age Literature

Dalal Sarnou, Mostaganem University, Algeria

Anglophony rose in most Middle Eastern countries from the long years of British colonization as it is the case with other South Asian and South African countries. After Bhabha, this has favored the emergence of hybrid identities, hybrid writings and hybrid cultures. Compared with the literature in French produced by North African (Algerian, Tunisian or Moroccan) or even Lebanese writers, the list of writings produced by Arabs (from Middle East mainly) in English was one on the whole unimpressive. This statement was challenged by an impressive increasing of English productions by Arab writers, mainly and interestingly women like Ahdaf Soueif, Leila Abulela, Soraya Antonius, Fadia Faqir, and others who either live in Britain, in the U.S or between the U.S/Britain and the Arab world. In reality, although scores of books have looked at Anglophone literature around the globe, they tend to make scant reference to the contribution of Arab writers, and specially women. Knowing that names such as Chinua Achebe, Bharati Mukherjee, Salman Rushdie and Anita Desai among others now are forming what can be identified as ‘parallel canon’, a similar recognition must be dedicated to significant Anglophone Arab writers –most of which are women as Ahdaf Soueif, Fadia Faqir, Diana Abu Djaber and others. This paper raises issues of hybridity, hyphenation and the literary specificity of Arab Anglophone women writings by looking at various bestselling English works produced by Arab British and Arab American women authors.

[Keywords: Arab English literature, Arab Anglophone women narratives, Arab British, Arab American, Diaspora, home, minor literature.]

The recent impressive boosting of narratives produced in English by women authors who are Arab British/American immigrants or daughters of early Arab British/American immigrants has encouraged many critics and academics to categorize this coming of age literature within specific frameworks.These narratives are now widely recognized by Western critics and are interested in by many academics and researchers . Indeed, the last few decades have been marked by an important increase of literary works produced in English by Arab male and female writers who are described either as Anglophone or hybrid , needless to mention that Anglophone Arab female writers outnumber male writers. These women writers , in particular, are of Arabic decent: either academics and/or intellectuals who migrated to Britain or USA and decided to write in English or British / American writers who are daughters of early twentieth century first Arab immigrants settling mainly in the US and whose mother tongue is English. Interestingly, literary works written by Arab Anglophone women writers –mainly novels and short stories –brought more recognition and visibility to the Arab Woman and defy the orientalist representation that was promoted since the nineteenth century in Western literature, media and art as is the case with European paintings and photographs and also in images from the World’s Fair in the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th centuries; these paintings depicted the Arab World as an exotic and mysterious place of sand, harems and belly dancers, reflecting a long history of Orientalist fantasies. Examples of these paintings are Delacroix, Death of Sardanapalus (1827), Delacroix, Women of Algiers in their apartment and others.
Arab women narratives produced by immigrant writers represent a distinct trend that falls into various literary areas, but the most recurrent of these areas in recent literary criticism is Arab Anglophone literature. Certainly, Anglophone Arabic literature, that is a literature conceived and executed in English by writers of Arabic background, is qualitatively different from Arabic literature and Arabic literature translated into English (Nash 11). This trend of Arabic literature is to be considered as the formative influences on contemporary international literatures: the postcolonial, with its theorization of intercultural relations by reference to the impact of colonialism and imperialism on non-Western literatures. The transnational aspect of Anglophone Arabic literature, which may add to this trend the feature of international literature, goes back to the impact and the cutting edge effects of globalization….Access Full Text of the Article