A Border Passage by Leila Ahmed

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Synopsis

A lyrical memoir--from Egyptian Muslim girlhood to American feminist womanhood.

Leila Ahmed grew up in Cairo in the 1940s and '50s in a family that was eagerly and passionately political. Although many in the Egyptian upper classes were firmly opposed to change, the Ahmeds were proud supporters of independence. But the family's opposition to Nasser's policies led to persecutions that would set their youngest child on a journey across cultures and through some of the major transformations of our century: the end of colonialism and the European empires, the creation of Israel, the rise of Arab nationalism, and the breakdown of the multireligious society that had thrived in Egypt.

Through university in England and teaching jobs in Abu Dhabi and America, Ahmed sought to define herself-and to understand how the world defined her-as a woman, a Muslim, an Egyptian, and an Arab. Her search touched on language and nationalism, on variations in men's and women's ways of knowing, and on vastly different interpretations of Islam. In the end she arrived at an ardent but critical feminism and an insider's understanding of multiculturalism and religious pluralism. In language that vividly evokes the lush summers of her Cairo youth and the fierce beauty of the Arabian desert, Ahmed has provided a story that can help us understand the passages between cultures that so affect our global society.

 

About Leila Ahmed

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Leila Ahmed is the first professor of Women's Studies and Religion at Harvard Divinity School. She is the author of Women and Gender in Islam, and the memoir, A Border Passage.
 
Published June 1, 2000 by Penguin Books. 307 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, History. Non-fiction

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Ahmed examines these events, questioning various cultural frameworks she has encountered: the men- only mosques where the classical Koran is taught, the white male template of Cambridge, and the written culture so different from the fluid oral traditions she examined on a sojourn in Abu Dhabi.

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Publishers Weekly

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As in her widely admired scholarly book Women and Gender in Islam, Ahmed addresses how historical and political forces shape personal identities, particularly those of Arab Muslim women.

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