Issue No.
179, March 2013 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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     Book of the Month

Menopausal Palestine Women at the Edge

Author: Suad Amiry

Like her debut, Sharon and My Mother-in-Law, and her second book, Nothing to Lose But Your Life: an 18-Hour Journey with Murad, Suad Amiry has succeeded in choosing a catchy and poignant title for her book.

While the English edition of her third book is Menopausal Palestine, Women at the Edge, the Italian and Spanish editions carry the title No Sex In the City. “And that city is Ramallah, not New York!” Amiry jokingly adds.

Once again, Amiry describes the absurdities and the complexities of the stressful political situation in Palestine in an extremely humourous way. When reading her books, one can’t help but laugh and cry, all at the same time. In her unique way, Amiry manages to address important political issues, such as the division between the political parties of Hamas and Fatah, as well as the social changes taking place in Palestine (as well as other Arab countries), through the personal (very personal!) stories of ten of her women friends. She opts to calls them “The PLO generation” or “CRIME,” which stands for the Committee of Ramallah Independent Menopausal Enterprise.

“It was Palestine or its absence which formed the central force around which our separate individual lives revolved,” says Amiry. Her book was triggered by Hamas’ victory in the 2006 elections. “As a result, I felt that the world community, particular the West, would demonise and stereotype (even more than it already had) both the Arab and the Muslim woman. I simply felt, I have already spent 40 some years of my life trying to convince the world that Palestinians are neither monsters nor terrorists. I (we) can’t possibly spend yet another 40 years (not that I have them!) convincing the world that the Arabs and the Muslims are normal human beings.”

In the preface of the book Amiry includes a dialogue between herself and the reader. She writes, “In order to get hold of who I am I decided to write a book about my women friends, the typical women of my generation.

‘But you are not a typical Arab or Muslim woman.’

I am ‘typical’ of who I am: a woman of a certain time in a certain place from a certain class, is my agitated answer to a more and more frequently asked (or stated) question in the Western World, where all stereotypes are politically manufactured. All I know is that I have lived 52 out of my 55 years between Amman, Damascus, Beirut, Cairo, and dwindling Palestine. I never understood what ‘typical’ was, but one thing I know, I am not typical of their ‘stereotyping.’

However, I must add that what distressed me most is that since the second birth of Christ: September Eleventh, we (Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims) have so far successfully played our ‘role’ by living up to their stereotyping. But I also realise that writing a book about ‘us’ is an indirect acknowledgement that we are no more. For ‘documentation’ in itself recognises the end of a reality: the end of a generation, the end of an era, and the end of the norm. Things cease to exist the minute we become aware of the need to document them. This, added to my own alienation, deepened my sadness. Nevertheless, I started writing this book.

I was overtaken by a deep sense of loss. I was mourning the loss of my personal way of life, the society I wanted to live in, the loss of a barely-existing hope for a free Palestine, the loss of touch with my diverse Arab and Mediterranean cultures, and, most important, what I, my mother, my father, my family, my friends, my generation, and others stood for: the secularism and pluralism which is now being ‘democratically’ replaced by ‘global religious fundamentalism’ and ‘local nationalism…A strong estrangement and alienation took hold of me. I no longer knew who I am (we are) and what I (we) represent. All I know is that, for now, neither the place nor the time is ours.”

Referring to Palestine as “menopausal,” Amiry draws parallels between her menopausal women’s generation (most of them are in their fifties and early sixties) and the PLO as a political movement. She says, “Well, when you reach that age, I mean become menopausal, you start reflecting back on your past but also on your future. In a subtle way you start feeling that you are starting to lose you charm, attractiveness, and power, and hence you search for new ways to attract or re-attract the many local and international admirers that you once had, but to no avail… And isn’t that what happened to the PLO!” Amiry cracks a big smile as tears brim in her greyish eyes. 


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