Beyond Veiled Cliches: The Real Lives of Arab Women
Books on the Arab world - particularly those focused on the place of women in it - are plentiful, but they are generally written by Western women. Amal Awad sees a lot of value in reading stories about the lives of women in the Arab world, but none of the ones she has read were shared through the subject's perspective. Many women emigrate to western countries and do anything but transform themselves into a western 'ideal'. They remain true to personal values. Meanwhile, the popular belief that Arab men are controlling does a complete disservice to women who have taken ownership of their lives and trajectories. It's an issue that cuts deep for Amal who continues to examine her own relationship to her Arab heritage, rebooting her understanding of the world, and her rights to live as she chooses within it. And yet, her experience is but one story of many. As someone who has a foot in both the Western and Arabic worlds, and with cultural understanding to address important contemporary issues in both, Amal feels equipped to do this by comparing and connecting lives in both worlds. Thus Amal sets off on an exploration of life from the perspective of Arab women, both in the West and the Arab world, interviewing more than 80 women. Beyond Veiled Cliches explores the similarities and differences experienced by women in both worlds in their daily lives - work, relationships, home and family life, friendships, the communities they live in, and more. Arab-Australian women are the meeting point - the intersection between western ideals and Arab tradition. It can get messy, but there is also great beauty in the layers. In a time of racial tension and rising global fear around terrorism, it seems there is fresh fear of 'the other'. Beyond Veiled Cliches aims to normalise people and their experiences, creating a more empathetic response to the perceived 'other'.
Amal Awad is a Sydney-based writer, journalist, author and public speaker. Amal frequently writes and speaks about issues of society, religion and popular culture. She has addressed festivals, universities, youth groups and community organisations, and has appeared on national radio. She self-published her debut novel Courting Samira - a tale of Muslim courtship and coming of age in the modern era - in 2010, which was a quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Amal recently contributed to the anthology Coming of Age- Growing up Muslim in Australia (Allen & Unwin, 2014), and her second novel, This Is How You Get Better, was published in March 2015. http-//www.amalawad.com/