Fatema Mernissi, 1940–2015

It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of iconic Moroccan sociologist, feminist and writer, Professor Fatema Mernissi, aged 75.

Seen by many around the world to be one of Morocco’s most prominent cultural and intellectual icons, Professor Mernissi was a leading advocate for women’s rights in the Muslim world. She was one of the first female academics to take up various themes considered taboo around the interpretation of the Qur’an and texts of Islamic tradition, arguing that women’s oppression is not due to Islam as this religion in fact celebrates women’s power. Her best known work, Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Muslim Society, was published by Saqi Books in 1985 and it remains one of the most pertinent analyses of the position of women in contemporary Islamic society today.

Her writings have been translated into more than thirty languages and other works such as Political Harem, Dreams of Trespass, The Veil and the Male Elite, and Women in Islam, have cemented her position as an authoritative voice for sociological and anthropological work on women in the Middle East. In 2003, she was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature and remained committed to advocating gender equality and women’s rights through numerous workshops and meetings across the world.

It was an honour and a privilege to have worked with Professor Mernissi over the last four decades – she was an inspirational and dedicated scholar whose work reached people of all ages, political backgrounds and schools of thoughts.

Tahar Ben Jelloun’s Novel Awarded English PEN Translates Grant

We are pleased to announce that About My Mother, a forthcoming novel by award-winning Moroccan novelist, essayist and poet, Tahar Ben Jelloun, has been awarded the English PEN Translates grant.

This year’s list includes writers such as Han Kang, Karmele Jaio and Lydie Salvayre and is the first time that women and men have shared the grants equally. Samantha Schnee, a trustee of English PEN and Chair of the Writers in Translation Committee, said : “We had more submissions than ever from independent publishers. The PEN Promotes grants include two collections of stories from Sudan and Bangladesh, a Korean novel, and a Kurdish epic and, as a whole, these 19 titles provide an excellent window onto the world.”

First published to critical acclaim in 2008 in France by Gallimard, About My Mother is a delicate portrait of a son and his ailing mother, whose slow descent into Alzheimer’s causes her lose her grasp on reality, blending the past and the present.

Written in tender and compelling prose, About My Mother is a heartfelt tribute to Ben Jelloun’s own mother, tackling the personal realities of living with Alzheimer’s and is a powerful account of the subjugation of women in post-war Morocco.

Translated from the French by Ros Schwartz and Lulu Norman, the novel will be published by Telegram in July 2016.

The Battle for British Islam by Sara Khan

We are delighted to announce the acquisition of The Battle for British Islam by human rights campaigner Sara Khan.

Selected as one of BBC Woman’s Hour Top 10 Influencers in 2015, Sara Khan is the co-founder of Inspire, a woman’s rights and counter-extremism organisation. She has spent the last twenty years campaigning for tolerance and equal rights within Muslim communities, and is now fighting one of the key fronts in the battle against Islamist inspired extremism – the war of ideas.

This urgent and courageous book will uncover how IS has lured British teenagers from all walks of life and allow us to hear directly from the young men and women who have been radicalised.

Offering new approaches in areas from education to the courts and youth engagement, Sara Khan will outline how to break the cycle of extremism without alienating British Muslims, and will also challenge the responses of the establishment and its failure to engage with British Muslims effectively in order to make our communities more resilient.

Lynn Gaspard, publisher at Saqi, acquired world rights from FRA literary agency.

Gaspard said:

“Sara is a brave, selfless campaigner. In this book, she speaks to some of the men and women who make up Britain’s 2.7 million Muslims and offers a forensic examination of the state of Islam in the country today. At a time when we are left mystified by the departure of hundreds of Britons to join IS in Syria and Iraq, Sara Khan offers much needed clarity. This book will be essential reading for anybody trying to understand the current crisis facing British Islam.”

The Battle for British Islam by Sara Khan, with Tony McMahon will be published in the UK in September 2016.

 

**Read the Guardian longread, ‘It’s up to us to stop these Muslim girls making the worst mistake of their lives’, to find out more about Sara Khan and her work over the past few years.

Suheil Bushrui, 1931–2015

It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Professor Suheil Bushrui, the distinguished author, poet, critic and translator, at the age of 84. A university professor for over 60 years, Bushrui taught at universities in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America, and was particularly revered as an authority on the works of W. B. Yeats and Kahlil Gibran. He was the Emeritus Professor and first incumbent of the George and Lisa Zakhem Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace at the University of Maryland, where he was also a Senior Scholar of Peace with the Center for International Development and Conflict Management.

A Fellow of the Temenos Academy, and the recipient of many international awards, Bushrui’s publications were extensive in both English and Arabic, and include The Wisdom of the Arabs, The Prophet: A New Annotated Edition and The Spiritual Heritage of the Human Race. His most recent publication, Desert Songs of the Night, was published to critical acclaim by Saqi Books in August 2015. The anthology, co-edited with James M. Malarkey, is a unique and extraordinary collection of the finest poetry and prose by Arab writers, from the Arab East to Andalusia, over the last 1,500 years.

Saqi Books was delighted to have the pleasure of working with Professor Bushrui over the past few years, sharing his knowledge of and passion for Arabic literature and bringing it to a new audience in the English-speaking world.

Dean Atta’s ‘I Am Nobody’s Nigger’ Shortlisted for the Polari Best First Book Prize!

Dean Atta’s powerful debut poetry collection, I Am Nobody’s Nigger, has been shortlisted for the Polari Best First Book Prize. The prize is for a first book that explores the LGBT experience and is open to any work of poetry, prose, fiction or non-fiction published in the UK in English. Exploring race, identity and sexuality, I Am Nobody’s Nigger is the powerful debut collection by one of the UK’s finest emerging poets. Dean Atta has been commissioned to write poems for the Damilola Taylor Trust, Keats House Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain and Tate Modern. He won the 2012 London Poetry Award and was named as one of the most influential LGBT people by the Independent on Sunday Pink List in 2012.

The other shortlisted titles are: Petite Mort by Beatrice Hitchman (Serpent’s Tail), Fairytales for Lost Children by Diriye Osman (Team Angelica), God’s Other Children – A London Memoir by Vernal W. Scott (self-published), and The Rubbish Lesbian by Sarah Westwood (Mimwood Press). The winner will be announced at the Polari Literary Salon on 8 October in the Purcell Room at the London Literature Festival. www.deanatta.co.uk @DeanAtta

Saqi’s ‘The Azerbaijani Kitchen: A Cookbook’ Wins Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2014 for Azerbaijan

Saqi’s The Azerbaijani Kitchen: A Cookbook by Tahir Amiraslanov and Leyla Rahmanova has won the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2014 in Azerbaijan in the category of Best Cookbook and Best Eastern Europe Book.

Containing over one hundred mouth-watering recipes, from pilafs with apricots, dates and plums, aubergine kebab and baked fish with walnuts,

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to halva and sweet crescent pastries, The Azerbaijani Kitchen is an excellent introduction to the exotic and diverse flavours of the region.