A House Not Her Own:
Stories from Beirut

by Nasrallah,
ISBN: 0921881193

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Brief Reviews - Fiction
by Helen Porter

IN "THE NIGHTMARE," one of the stories in Emily Nasrallah's collection A House Not Her Own (gynergy, 13 7 pages, $12.95 paper) the first-person narrator dreams a dreadful dream about her father. Most of us have experienced the tremendous relief of realizing that what was so strongly alive in our sleeping minds is not real. For this woman, who lives in wartorn Beirut, waking brings little satisfaction; the world around her is itself a nightmare.

Nasrallah, a longtime feminist in a male-dominated country that was engaged in a savage war for 16 years, has had two of her earlier books banned in some Arab countries. She describes the stories in this collection as "a living testimony rising from the core of fire and destruction." She pays particular attention to the way women feel about the men they love:

He is still the lover, the brother, the father, the son .... But he is, at the same time, the force that pulls the trigger, explodes the bomb, launches the rocket and aims his sniper bullet at her chest.

In the story "Explosion," a young Lebanese woman shops with her little daughter for a Cabbage Patch doll. And then: "Who is me? Who am I? I am no longer here. I am not there.... I did not hear the explosion. Maybe I lost my ears before the sound could reach me." Another story, "How We Were," reads like a long lyric poem to a lost daughter. For centuries we've been seeing war through men's eyes. Emily Nasrallah's unflinching yet compassionate prose presents it through the eyes of women.


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