The course Global Literature: Modern Writings from Women of the Non-Western World was one of the most important college classes I’ve ever taken as a writer. Dr. Jo Dulan at Salem College taught this literature course. It allowed me the ability to break out of US literature and explore books on a more global scale from the vital perspective of a woman writer.

In appreciation of this experience, I have researched a few authors from various countries, provinces, regions, etc. outside of the USA that have translated works available in English; many of the writers have works available in their native tongues and other languages as well. This series is merely a tool to introduce you to a large amount of important writers.

I do not propose that the written works or the writers that I feature are the most important, the most popular, or are able to speak for an entire identity or culture. Rather, I am hoping to simply give suggestions to create interest in global literature. It is important to recognize writers — especially women, who are often underrepresented — from all parts of the world.

Keep an open mind as you read. Sometimes things are lost in translation, and sometimes a subject may take more research to understand.

This post will cover a few authors from Egypt. Please feel free to suggest additional authors in the comments.

Nawâl El Saadâwi (السعداوي‎‎ نوال)

Egyptian writer Nawâl El Saadâwi at the Göteborg Book Fair 2010 by Bengt Oberger/CC BY 3.0

From Wikipedia: “Nawâl El Saadâwi is an Egyptian feminist writer, activist, physician and psychiatrist. She has written many books on the subject of women in Islam, paying particular attention to the practice of female genital mutilation in her society.” She was born in Kafr Tahla, Egypt.

Try this: Woman at Point Zero by Nawâl El Saadâwi

Overview of Woman at Point Zero from

“Nawâl El Saadâwi’s highly acclaimed feminist novel, Woman at Point Zero, follows the life of Firdaus, an Egyptian peasant girl, from her childhood of incomprehensible cruelty and neglect to her end in a grimy Cairo prison cell. From her earliest memories, Firdaus suffered at the hands of men—first her abusive father, then her violent, much older husband, to finally her deceitful boyfriend-turned-pimp. After a lifetime of abuse, she at last takes drastic action against the males ruling her life. Still as beautiful and cutting as it was when it was first published, this new edition will continue to resonate powerfully with readers for years to come.”

Learn more about Nawâl El Saadâwi.

Hudā Shaʿrāwī (شعراوي‎‎ هدى)

Hudā Shaʿrāwī/Public Domain

From Wikipedia: “Hudā Shaʿrāwī was a pioneering Egyptian feminist leader, nationalist, and founder of the Egyptian Feminist Union.” She was born in Minya, Egypt.

Try this: Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, 1879-1924 / Edition 1 by Hudā Shaʿrāwī

Overview of Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, 1879-1924 / Edition 1 from

“In this firsthand account of the private world of a harem in colonial Cairo, Shaʿrāwī recalls her childhood and early adult life in the seclusion of an upper-class Egyptian household, including her marriage at age thirteen. Her subsequent separation from her husband gave her time for an extended formal education, as well as an unexpected taste of independence. Shaʿrāwī’s feminist activism grew, along with her involvement in Egypt’s nationalist struggle, culminating in 1923 when she publicly removed her veil in a Cairo railroad station, a daring act of defiance.”

Learn more about Hudā Shaʿrāwī.

Salwa Bakr (سلوى بكر)

Salwa Bakr/Source: Words Without Borders

From Wikipedia: “Salwa Bakr is an Egyptian critic, novelist and author. She was born in the Matariyya district in Cairo in 1949. Her father was a railway worker. She studied business at Ain Shams University, gaining a BA degree in 1972.” She was born in Al-Matariyyah, Egypt.

Try this: The Man from Bashmour by Salwa Bakr

Overview of The Man from Bashmour from

“Egypt in the ninth century ad: an Arab, Muslim ruling class governs a country of mostly Coptic-speaking Christians. After an exorbitant land tax imposed by the caliph’s governors sparks a peasant revolt, Budayr is dispatched to the marshlands of the Nile Delta as an escort for a church-appointed emissary whose mission is to persuade the rebels to lay down their arms. But he is soon caught up in a swirl of events and concerns that alter the course of his life irrevocably, setting him on a path he could never have foreseen. The events that befall him and the insights he gains from them bring about a gradual but inexorable personal transformation, through which his eyes are opened to the fundamental commonalities practical, spiritual, and existential that bind Muslims and Copts, and he emerges as an emissary of a new sort. Hailed as a groundbreaking treatment of otherwise neglected aspects of medieval history, The Man from Bashmour is an exploration of the Egyptian character past and present, and offers insights into Egyptian thought on everything from love, philosophy, and religion to life and death.”

Learn more about Salwa Bakr.

Past Featured Women Writers:

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