Faqir, Fadia 1956–
Faqir, Fadia 1956–
(Fadia A.M. Faqir)
Born August 21, 1956, in Amman, Jordan; daughter of Samiha Bayuqa and Ahmad Faqir; divorced; married second husband, Dean Torok, June 21, 2003; children: (first marriage) Haitham Abu Sadah (son), (second marriage) two stepdaughters. Education: University of Jordan, B.A., 1983; University of Lancaster, M.A., 1985; University of East Anglia, Ph.D., 1989. Religion: Muslim.
Home—Durham, England. Office—St. Mary's College, Elvet Hill Rd., Durham DH1 3LR, England.
Garnet Publishing, Reading, England, senior editor, 1990-94; Durham University, Durham, England, lecturer, 1994. Member of Arts council Translation Group, London, England, 1990-94; member of creative writing pool of instructors, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1993-96; board member, Center for Media Freedom—Mena Region, London, 1999; member of advisory board, Center for Asian and Middle Eastern Architecture, Adelaide, Australia, 2000. Lecturer at colleges, universities, and seminars. Member of board, Centre for Media Freedom, Middle East and North Africa, of Arts Council of Britain Translation Advisory Group, 1992-96, and of Exeter University Women's Studies Committee, 1990-92.
British Society for Middle Eastern Studies; Association of Professors of English and Translation at Arab Universities; English PEN.
New Venture award, Women in Publishing, 1995, for editing "Arab Women Writers" series; honorary fellow, St. Mary's College, Durham University.
Nisanit (novel), A. Ellis (Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England), 1987, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1990.
Pillars of Salt: A Novel, Interlink Books (New York, NY), 1997.
(Editor and translator, with Shirley Eber) In the House of Silence: Autobiographical Essays by Arab Women Writers, Garnet Publishing (Reading, England), 1998.
(Author with Malene From) Turn Your Head Not (play), produced in Copenhagen, Denmark, September, 2006.
The Cry of the Dove (novel), Grove Atlantic (New York, NY), 2007, published in England as My Name Is Salma, Doubleday/Random House (London, England), 2007.
Contributor of short plays, "The Paper Factory" and "E-mails from Sharazad," to touring show 1001 Nights Now. Contributor to books, including The Gulf between Us, Virago Press (London, England), 1991, Beyond the Gulf War, Catholic Institute for International Relations (London, England), 1991, Atlas of Literature, [London, England], 1996, Magnetic North, New Writing North, 2005, and Dominican Literature and Arab-American and Arab Anglophone Literature, edited by Nathalie Handal. General editor, "Arab Women Writers" series, Garnet Publishing, 1995-96. Faqir's work has been translated into eleven languages, including Arabic, German, Dutch, and Danish. Member of editorial board, Al-Raida and Middle East Series. Contributor to periodicals, including Third World Quarterly, Asian Women, and Planet Journal.
Fadia Faqir is a writer who was raised in Jordan, but eventually made her home in England. There, she has established herself as an advocate for human rights and a scholar, as well as an acclaimed novelist. Faqir grew up in a conservative Muslim family, with a mother who was somewhat more liberal than her father. In an article for Guardian Online, she recalled the tensions between herself and her father over issues relating to traditional Muslim practices. For women, one of these practices is to keep the head veiled, hiding most of the face and especially the hair. By the time Faqir was twenty-three years old, she had rebelled twice against the practice of wearing the veil, encouraged by an aunt who had taken up a much more secular lifestyle than that followed by Faqir's parents. "She had always encouraged me to resist and taught me how to negotiate a way out: I accepted every other condition, such as a seven o'clock curfew, but refused to cover my head," she wrote in her piece for Guardian Online. When Faqir was accepted to the University of Jordan, her father applied pressure on her to take up the veil again by stating that he would not pay for her college education unless she complied with his wishes. "So believing my education was more important than resistance, I went to the market, bought two metres of white polyester, wrapped my head with them and pinned the veil under my chin. It took seven years for the pin to be removed," she wrote.
Following the successful completion of her degree at the University of Jordan, Faqir won a scholarship to pursue studies in creative writing at Lancaster University in England. Faqir's father was adamant that his daughter should not leave Jordan. The author recalled: "So I jumped up and down on my parents' bed, weeping and saying, ‘You cannot stop me. As long as there is pen and paper in the world you cannot stop me from becoming a writer.’" Her father eventually agreed to let her go to England, on two conditions: She would have to agree to faithfully keep the tradition of the veil, and she would have to take her seventeen-year-old brother along in order to serve as her muharam or chaperone. She agreed. At the time she was twenty-eight years old, had been married and divorced, had a son, lost custody of her child in her divorce proceedings, and felt that she had "failed as a daughter, a Muslim, a wife and a mother." She felt quite lost in England and kept the veil faithfully for some time. By 1986, however, as she prepared to start work on her Ph.D., she felt she had "reached the point where I could no longer both obey my father and keep a shred of self-respect." Returning to London after some time in Jordan, she reached a fateful moment: "When I arrived in London, one of my old friends met me at the airport, and we took a taxi back to her flat. I put my hands up and, with trembling fingers, took out the pins and pulled the veil back to reveal my hair to the cab driver—the first time in seven years that a stranger had seen it. I don't know whether the cab driver even noticed but as soon as the fresh air touched my hair I began to cry." Faqir was so profoundly affected by her decision and her actions that she continued to cry on and off for three days. When she eventually returned to Jordan, her mother accepted the changes in her life, despite the disapproval shown by the community at large. Her father was another matter, however; he was adamant in his disapproval for a very long time, even refusing to speak to his daughter. Eventually, however, he accepted Faqir and her chosen lifestyle. Many of the author's experiences during these years informed her novel My Name Is Salma, published in England as The Cry of the Dove.
Faqir's novels have all been written in English. Her first was titled Nisanit. The subject matter was ambitious; the narrative follows the movements and thoughts of a Palestinian terrorist, his girlfriend, and David, an Israeli man in charge of the terrorist's interrogation. Despite being a survivor of the Holocaust, David takes a brutal pleasure in torturing his prisoners as he questions them. Nisanit was followed by Pillars of Salt: A Novel, a story with "anti-traditional feminist themes," in the words of a Publishers Weekly writer. There are two narrators: the Storyteller, a traveling teller of tales whose speech is frequently profane, and a peasant woman named Maha. Maha relates the story of Um Saad, a woman of a higher social station, as well as her own tale; they are connected by time spent in a mental hospital together. "Faqir is a skilled writer striving for an ambitious synthesis of Arabic and English style, Islamic and Western sensibility," stated the Publishers Weekly writer.
Faqir's personal experiences provided her with some background for her third novel, My Name Is Salma, published in England as The Cry of the Dove. In it, she "boldly addresses her ongoing theme of the vulnerability of Arab women in male-dominated societies," said Deborah Donovan in a Booklist review. The plot concerns Salma, a Bedouin girl who becomes pregnant when she is sixteen years old. She is unmarried at the time, and liable to be killed by her tribe for her offense. Salma's saga follows her through imprisonment, the birth of her child (which is immediately taken from her), her later travels to England and her beginning a new life there as "Sally." Working to earn her own living, she becomes more and more independent, finally gathering the courage to remove her veil. "Readers will be transfixed" by her journey, stated Andrea Kempf in Library Journal. The book was further recommended by Geoff Pound in Reviewing Books and Movies, who called it "a heavy story but a most important book to read."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August 1, 2007, Deborah Donovan, review of The Cry of the Dove, p. 31.
Bookseller, February 3, 2006, "Honour Killing Tale to Doubleday," p. 13.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, December 1, 1997, review of Pillars of Salt: A Novel, p. 630.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2007, review of The Cry of the Dove.
Library Journal, July 1, 2007, Andrea Kempf, review of The Cry of the Dove, p. 75.
Middle East Journal, June 22, 1997, review of Pillars of Salt, p. 468.
New Statesman, December 18, 1987, Richard Deveson, review of Nisanit, p. 46; July 2, 2007, "Make Do and Mend," p. 61.
New Statesman & Society, May 17, 1996, review of Pillars of Salt, p. 40.
Publishers Weekly, April 20, 1990, Penny Kaganoff, review of Nisanit, p. 68; April 28, 1997, review of Pillars of Salt, p. 51.
Times Higher Education Supplement, January 31, 1997, Kate Worsley, "Pillar of Tolerance," interview with Fadia Faqir, p. 18.
World Literature Today, March 22, 1991, Evelyne Accad, review of Nisanit, p. 356.
A 'n' E Vibe,http://www.anevibe.com/ (August 5, 2008), Kindah Mardam Bey, review of The Cry of the Dove.
Bookbag,http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/ (August 5, 2008), Paul Harrop, review of My Name Is Salma.
Fadia Faqir Home Page,http://www.fadiafaqir.com (August 5, 2008).
Guardian Online,http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (August 5, 2008), Fadia Faqir, "As Soon as the Fresh Air Touched My Hair I Began to Cry."
Literature Northeast,http://www.literaturenortheast.co.uk/ (August 5, 2008), author profile.
Moore Musings, November 8, 2007, http://moorebrarians.blogspot.com/ (August 5, 2008), review of The Cry of the Dove.
Reviewing Books and Movies, http://reviewingbooksandmovies.blogspot.com/ (August 5, 2008), Geoff Pound, review of My Name Is Salma.