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Middle East Reading Challenge

Welcome to the Middle East Reading Challenge!

*In the future, refer to the Middle East Challenge page (above) for all of these details (this is so that you don't have to bookmark this page). That is where I will update the book list

Why another reading challenge?
I hope we are all going to be exposed to interesting new topics, authors, and books over the next year. I am not Muslim, not Arab, and am not from the Middle East. However, over the past few years the Middle East has grown to play a greater role in the world, and, unfortunately, the information we hear is mostly negative. I hope that by reading books about this region we'll all gain a better understanding of the people and culture.

What do I consider the Middle East?
The Middle East is a nebulous term with each person defining it in a different way (it's also a very Euro-centric term so please forgive me for that). However I am going to use it for lack of a better way to define the area covered by this reading challenge. So, what is the Middle East? Traditionally it included only the countries in Asia plus Egypt. Some define it as countries with Arabic as the dominant language, while others say it is all Islamic countries. For the purposes of this challenge I am going to stick with the more traditional/geographic approach including the countries around the Arabian peninsula. I struggled about what to do with Turkey and have chosen to leave it out as they currently choose to be associated more with Europe. Likewise, I am not including the "stan" countries as they are culturally, linguistically, and ethnically different (and, officially, they are in Central Asia).

What books qualify for this reading challenge?
The author of the book may be from the countries listed below or the book can be set in one of the countries included in this challenge. Fiction, non-fiction, YA and Adult lit, graphic novels, audio books, books for other challenge... they all count.

There are no levels for this challenge, my hope is that we'll each read whatever number works for us, learning to appreciate and understand the Middle East more along the way.

What are the dates of the challenge?
The challenge will run August 1, 2010 through July 31, 2011 (I thought starting the challenge during Ramadan would be appropriate).

How do I sign up to participate?
Write an introductory post about what you hope to get out of this challenge, or why you are signing up, or what you know/feel about the Middle East, or something that relates to this challenge. If you want to list books you are going to read you may, but you certainly don't have to. Please include a link back to this post so that others who are interested can find it.

Add your name to Mr. Linky including a link to your introductory post. If you do not have a blog but would like to participate, email me at helen (at) helensbookblog (dot) com

Where do I post my reviews?
Please post your reviews on the designated review post. Thank you.

Suggested books and authors: 
For each book I've linked to either my review, the author's website, Amazon, or an article about the book so that you can get an idea of the book. I would love your ideas of other books to include as my list is certainly not anywhere near complete!

Remember that books on Middle East leader, religions, and historical events also count.

Palestine (Gaza Strip and West Bank)

Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates (UAE)

    Are there buttons for this challenge? Of course! These buttons were made from photos I took on my trip to Oman. Please feel free to include them in your posts and on your blog!


    Athira said...

    I'll probably be signing up, but let me check out my books and I'll do a post!

    Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

    This sounds great!
    I'm starting Nine Parts of Desire next week for book group!
    How many books do we have to commit to reading? Did I miss it in your post?

    Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

    Here is another one you could add to your list -- we considered this for book group too:

    by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Aths--glad to have you aboard!

    Gerbera Daisy--No minimum number of books! Infidel looks good, but seems mostly about Somalia, which I didn't include on my list... But it looks like a definite good read. Do you know if it covers any of the countries I've got on this challenge's list?

    Amanda said...

    What a wonderful challenge! I'll definitely be signing up. I'll post about it next week and come back for the official sign up. I love the way you set this up btw, with authors or setting, and with no levels!

    Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

    I thought she lived in Saudi Arabia at some point...maybe I was mistaken.

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Amanda--Glad you're going to participate! And, I am glad you like the relaxed format; I figured each person could then do what they wanted/could

    Gerbera Daisy--I've added the book to the list; thank you!

    Jen at Introverted Reader said...

    I love the idea for this challenge! Hopefully I'll get to some of these books that have been on my to-read list for a while. Thanks for hosting this!

    Anonymous said...

    Glad you're back from your trip and had a good time.
    I'm just about to go on vacation so glad we have some time to think about this challenge.

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Jen--Thanks for joining (you're the first official participant). I'm now a follower of your blog as well!

    Linda--I do hope you join as I hope it will be fun. Have a great time on your vacation!

    Amanda said...

    BTW, a really good book to add under Palestine would be Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa. For YA, A Bottle in the Gaza Sea is about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, taking place in Israel.

    Sandra said...

    I would love to join this challenge please. I will post and link up when I am up to it but count me in for sure.

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Amanda--I've added the two books, thank you! That's what I love about this already; I am getting book ideas for various sources!

    Sandra--I am so glad you're going to sign up for the challenge! Thank you!

    Amanda said...

    Finally got my post up about the challenge! I added it to the linky. :)

    christina said...

    Yay! I'm super excited. :D

    xaamir said...

    "Mornings in Jenin" by Susan Abulhawa would be a terrific ad. It is a historical fiction written by a Palestinian about Palestine - the only historical fiction based on the Israel-Palestine conflict. It is currently a best seller in many European countries and Susan is typically happy to speak to any book club over phone. Check its reviews on Amazon, GoodReads etc.

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Amanda and Christina--welcome to the challenge!

    Xaamir--Thank you for the suggestion. I realize I've been updating the book list on the Middle East Challenge page (link at the top of the blog), but not on this post so I'll do that right now. Mornings in Jenin must be really good as lots of people are suggesting it.

    Carina said...

    *shudder* There are sooooo many things wrong with Infidel. So many things. *sigh*

    I'll be writing up a post soon and will link back to it once it's up. I'm actually doing an entire month of Islam- related books (including fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, children's books, YA, etc.) for the month of Ramadan, which runs from August 11th - September 10th this year, so I'll be getting in quite a few books during that period.

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Carina--I haven't read Infidel, but a number of people suggested it. I can't wait to see what you say about it

    Unknown said...

    I would mention that the literary community from the middle east feels that it is unfair when people choose books written by non-middle east writers (that are often a diatribe) over their own writers like Naguib Mahfouz, Susan Abulhawa and Azar Nafisi

    The thing is that you can always pick a book against a culture or a society. But if the purpose is to understand the land, it is perhaps reasonable to begin with the stories people from that land write themselves. These would be stories like "Cairo Trilogy," "Mornings in Jenin," and "Reading Lolita in Tehran."

    Just my two cents :-)

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Headmaster--I definitely hope people pick books about the Middle East by middle eastern writers. That would be my first choice, but I know that won't always happen so I have listed both options. I'll add any other suggested books that you'd like to suggest

    Jen at Introverted Reader said...

    I just finished Shadow of the Swords by Kamran Pasha. In a nutshell, it's the story of the Third Crusade told from a Muslim viewpoint, written by an American Muslim. I found it be a little eye-opening. I think it would be another good suggestion to be listed under Israel. (I do realize the challenge hasn't started yet, but I received this for review and needed to get it read)

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Jen--Thanks for the suggestion. I've added both his books to the "general" catagory for the challenge. What an interesting author!

    And, absolutely count this book for the challenge; I want people to enjoy the books and the topics and don't mind that you read it before August 1

    Venky said...

    Naguib Mahfouz is I guess the most accomplished writer on this list.

    I can't imagine anyone skipping past Mornings in Jenin, currently a best seller here in India. The book covers a very contemporary theme - the Israel-Palestine conflict from the eyes of Amal, a Palestinian refugee. The book also stands out because of Susan Abulhawa's prose - I think she is a Arabic poet turned writer and that gives her writing a lovely flavor that can really hook you.

    I would also recommend "In Search of Fatima, a Palestinian story" by Ghada Karmi, a very affectionate memoir.

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Venky--Mornings in Jenin was recommended by a lot of people so I'll be sure to read that one. I'll add the others you suggested to the list. Thank you

    Notorious Spinks said...

    I intend to sign up. I write my post Saturday. Mmmm.. I have Infidel so I'll start with that one. She also has a book that came out a couple of months ago, Nomad.

    Looking forward to learning about other cultures.

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Notorious--Glad to have you with us! I look forward to your post

    Edi said...

    I've wanted to sign up to support you with this, but I've done TERRIBLE with all my challenges!! I'm reading a middle eastern book right now so, I'm going to sign up and to show you some love!

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Edi--Thanks for the love (joining the challenge)! If you've read one book that counts you've completed the challenge so there won't be any guilt involved!

    Rummanah Aasi said...

    I just signed up for this challenge and will start in January. I'm sorry that it took me so long to sign up! Thanks for hosting this great challenge!

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Rummanah--welcome! I just visited your blog and am excited that you're joining us

    mee said...

    Hi, I'm trying to sign up, but Mr Linky doesn't seem to be working? I just finished Nine Parts of Desire and will post the review soon. Here's my "challenge post".

    mee said...

    Oops forget what I said. I just saw my name appearing :)

    Helen's Book Blog said...

    Mee--I was so worried I was going to have figure out how to fix Mr Linkay, whew! So glad you're joining us!