The overriding theme of this work is that women's struggles, human rights, myths, and literary expression are indispensable to an understanding of the modern culture and socio-political development of the Middle East region. The work demonstrates that no aspect of Middle Eastern history and modern evolution was shaped in isolation of women's lives and contributions to society. The dictionary covers the biographies and written work of prominent historical female figures in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as 20th-century feminists, both male and female, who advanced women's rights over many years.
The Historical Dictionary of Women in the Middle East and North Africa includes a chronology, an introductory essay, an extensive bibliography, and a dictionary section that has over 400 cross-referenced entries on various aspects of Middle Eastern feminism and culture, touching upon religious themes such as Sharia laws, Islamic marriage, divorce, and inheritance practices. This book is an excellent access point for students, researchers, and anyone wanting to know more about the culture and history of women in the Middle East and North Africa.
Ghada Talhami —
Ghada Talhami is D. K. Pearsons Professor of Politics, emerita, at Lake Forest College. She is the past editor of Arab Studies Quarterly and currently serves on the board of editors of the same journal as well as Muslim World. She is the author of several books, including The Mobilization of Muslim Women in Egypt (1996) and Palestine in the Egyptian Press (2007).
Talhami, Ghada. Historical dictionary of women in the Middle East and North Africa. Scarecrow, 2013. 407p bibl afp; ISBN 9780810868588; ISBN 9780810870864 e-book. Reviewed in 2013jul CHOICE.
Focusing on women in North Africa and the Middle East, this dictionary provides an excellent introduction to events, issues, organizations, concepts, and people, from ancient times to the present day. Talhami (emer., Lake Forest College) knows her topic, and her well-written entries provide a gateway to understanding complex issues, especially for students new to the field. For example, her entry on "Urf Marriage" explains not only this controversial institution itself but also its historical origins and contemporary contexts. Entries are noteworthy for their country-specific perspective, which provides an alternative to the monolithic perspective often presented on women in the Middle East. The dictionary features over 400 alphabetically organized entries with useful cross-references. However, without an index, beginners who do not know the name of a concept or person may have difficulty in locating entries of interest. Talhami also includes a chronology and an excellent bibliography with a useful introductory essay. Organized by time period and by resource type, this bibliography is a great starting point for anyone looking for classic texts on issues related to women and the Middle East and North Africa.