I put together this list of accomplished female writers from the Middle East for Al-Monitor.
“Sensational stories recycled and propagated by mainstream Western media and Hollywood films have painted a one-dimensional portrait of the Middle Eastern woman as a submissive victim of oppressive patriarchy and religion. But even a rudimentary exploration of the literature through which the region’s female writers have been articulating their personal memories as well as their social observations, critiques and visions for the past half century, would introduce not merely a counternarrative, but an anti-narrative — a literary refusal to whittle down the diversity of experiences lived by Middle Eastern women into a single, neatly defined condition.
In the aftermath of World War II, many of the newly formed Arab states introduced social reforms — such as free, mandatory public education — that enabled women to more easily insert themselves into the male-dominated field of the literary arts. They continue, however, to constitute a minority within the domain, many of them bolstered by a background of privilege. As a result, many of the experiences had by women in the region have yet to find articulation in regional literature.
Both male and female writers in the Middle East have long had to contend with social, political and religious forces that consider some ideas inappropriate for public discussion. Unsurprisingly, however, it has always been more difficult for female writers, often subjected to stricter behavioral codes by family, society and government, to engage with supposed “taboos.” But despite obstacles and limitations, and despite the regional literary scene only being penetrable, for the most part, by a small class of female socio-economic elites, the Middle East has generated a powerful body of female-authored work that collectively provides much-needed historical, socio-political and cultural insight into an obsessively watched but chronically misrepresented part of the world.”