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We Wrote in Symbols, Love and Lust by Arab Women Writers: Selma Dabbagh


About the Author

Selma Dabbagh is a British Palestinian writer. Her debut novel Out of It (Bloomsbury) was named a Guardian Book of the Year. Her radio play The Brick was nominated for the Imison Award and produced by BBC Radio 4. She has published numerous short stories.


We Wrote in Symbols: Love and Lust by Arab Women Writers


Selma Dabbagh


About the Book:

We Wrote in Symbols is

  • the first anthology to feature writing by Arab women on lust, love and the erotic
  • spanning 3000 years, it includes the works of classical authors, award-winning contemporary authors and emerging writers, published in English for the first time
  • included writers such as Hanan al-Shaykh, Hoda Barakat, Joumana Haddad, Ahdaf Soueif, Leïla Slimani, Isabella Hammad & Sabrina Mahfouz

It is a little-known secret that Arabic literature has a long tradition of erotic writing. Behind that secret lies another – that many of the writers are women.

We Wrote in Symbols celebrates the works of 75 of these female writers of Arab heritage who articulate love and lust with artistry and skill. Here, a wedding night takes an unexpected turn beneath a canopy of stars; a woman on the run meets her match in a flirtatious encounter at Dubai Airport; and a carnal awakening occurs in a Palestinian refugee camp. From a masked rendezvous in a circus, to meetings in underground bars and unmade beds, there is no such thing as a typical sexual encounter, as this electrifying anthology shows.



A quick promo on TikTok to explain what’s coming up:


From the Inside Flap

Arab women have been the subject of male fantasies and myths about the East for centuries, while for many within the Arab world today, women who confess to sexual pleasure are still taboo. But it is a little-known secret that Arabic literature has a long tradition of erotic writing. This ground-breaking collection celebrates these women’s voices who dare to articulate their own desires with artistry and skill.

These stories and poems of lust and erotica lay bare the most private, prohibited, and primitive sexual experiences and awakenings. Enter and experience tantalizing encounters in Parisian bars, stumble across dark confessions whispered in forgotten Beiruti alleyways, and be seduced by old friends learning to love again unexpectedly in later life.

Wherever these fantasies take us, there is no such thing as a typical sexual encounter – and there never has been – as this exhilarating anthology shows through 7000 years of Arab female writing on lust and erotica. Writers both classical and contemporary, including Adania Shibli, Isabella Hammad, Hanan Al Shaykh, Hoda Barakat, Leila Aboulela, Joumana Haddad and Leila Slimani, convey the complexities, intrigues and thrill of the chase, inviting you to share their written women’s most private moments.


YouTube raw footage of the conversation between Selma Dabbagh and Sara Jamshidi for Peacemindedly podcast





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