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Seems I forgot to comment on the Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands by Sonia Nimer (2013, Palestine; Trans. 2021)

I read this fun, enchanting adventure story (with a female heroine!) over the New Year; and nearly in one sitting. It's technically a book for older YA readers. Here is the publisher's synopsis:

"Sonia Nimr’s award-winning Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands is a richly imagined feminist-fable-plus-historical-novel that tells an episodic travel narrative, like that of the great 14th century Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta, through the eyes of a clever and irrepressible young Palestinian woman."

"The story begins hundreds of years ago, when our hero—Qamar—is born as an outcast, at the foot of a mountain in Palestine, near her father’s strange, isolated village. Qamar’s mother must solve the mystery of why only boys are born in this odd, conservative village. Then, in 1001 Nights style, this tale moves into another. Qamar’s parents die and a prince with many wives wants to marry her. Qamar takes her favorite book, Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands, and flees through Gaza, to Egypt, where she is captured, enslaved, and sold to the sister of the mad king in Egypt. After escaping, she flees to study with a polymath in Morocco. But when it’s discovered she’s a girl, she must leave again, disguising herself as a boy pirate to sail the Mediterranean. Through all her fast-paced battles, mysteries, and adventures, Qamar never finds a home, but she does manage to create a family.'

It's from a small publisher "Interlink Books" in western Massachusetts who I became acquainted with back in the Belletrista era. Once or twice a year I browse their catalog and buy a book or two as a way of support. Interlink books is, I believe, is distributed by S&S.
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avaland | Hi ha 1 ressenya més | Feb 6, 2024 |
69/2021. Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands, by Sonia Nimr, is a novel aimed at young adult readers that was originally written in Arabic then translated into English. It was billed to me as a fantasy but it's more a travel themed (historical) adventure novel.

The title is presumably a nod to Ibn Battuta's travelogue A Masterpiece to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling, and other works in the Rihla genre, although the protagonist of this story appears to be nominally Christian.

The book begins with a framing story about some rediscovered documents, which tell a story, in which people read books and tell stories... oh, and the narrator is a self-confessed liar... all by page 43, but none of this is difficult to read or keep track of because the stories are all interesting and held my attention.

The loudest theme of this book is dislocation, whether external dis-location by choice through travel or by being forced to move on (e.g. towards enslavement or away from an insoluble problem) or internal dislocation caused by loss and grief.

The quieter theme is subtle feminism, not only woman rescues herself, but also woman is befriended by woman, and woman is rescued by woman, and woman rescues man, and woman has foolish first love (crush actually as nothing comes of it, thank goodness!) but then has second love with man who respects her, woman marries man who respects her and their daughter, woman raises daughter as a whole person (valued as an individual, and educated as a member of her class unrestricted by gender), and woman had a good relationship with her own mother and father, and woman rescues other people using the doctoring skills taught to her by her mother, and woman also sometimes has to deal with the ill-will of fellow women. And woman can pretend to be a man in the eyes of her society and do everything a man could do (not every man, of course, but any one man). And all this is woman-centred but not man-excluding.

But I don't want to pick the themes apart any further and lose the subtlety woven into the storytelling. This isn't my preferred type of novel but it is a well constructed and dramatic traveller's tale within the historical adventure genre.
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spiralsheep | Hi ha 1 ressenya més | Apr 30, 2021 |
Cute. An nice little book of Palestinian stories. Cute size;cute illustrations.
Honeysucklepie | Hi ha 1 ressenya més | Aug 21, 2013 |
The first volume in a new series of children's folklore collections being put out by the British publisher Frances Lincoln, Ghaddar the Ghoul contains nine stories taken from the Palestinian tradition. Retold by Sonia Nimr, a history professor at Birzeit University, who is also involved in storytelling for children, these tales reference many classic folktale conventions of the Middle East, from the presence and involvement of djinn in human affairs, to the all-important role of storytelling itself.

Included are some epic-quest type tales, among them the titular Ghaddar the Ghoul, in which a young man named Ahmad journeys to the Valley of the Ghouls in order to confront the fearsome Ghaddar; or Dancing Jasmine, Singing Water, in which a brother's quest to provide his twin sister with all that she desires leads to their eventual reunion with their father. Also in this vein is Hasan and the Golden Feather, in which a prince sets out to "do something worthwhile" and prove himself worthy of the throne.

Quite a few of the tales end in unexpectedly humorous ways, such as The Farmer Who Followed his Dream, in which a farmer finds that following your dream has its reward; Tanbouri's Clown, in which a seemingly indestructible pair of shoes helps to teach an old miser a lesson; and Stupid Salma, in which a husband learns that his wife is by no means the stupidest person in the world. The animal tale also makes an appearance, as the reader learns "why snakes eat frogs, why swallow has a fork in his tail and why mosquitoes can't sing" in How Swallow Tricked Snake; or discovers that those who swear falsely are always punished in Hungry Wolf and Crafty Fox. Finally, in my favorite tale of the collection, I Landed at the Prince's Party, the famed female storyteller archetype makes her appearance, weaving a story that begins and ends "with a lie."

I enjoyed reading this short collection of tales, and believe that young readers would as well. The black and white illustrations by Hannah Shaw are engaging, though by no means extraordinary. The folklorist in me was very pleased, moreover, to discover that source notes were included at the end, a feature that is always helpful to those inclined to research further.
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AbigailAdams26 | Hi ha 1 ressenya més | Jun 13, 2013 |



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