Scrolling through social media I saw that Diwan Egypt (one of the most influential and prominent bookstores in Egypt, and a place I proudly worked for) was hosting an event for a book signing of “The Greater Freedom” by Alya Mooro. The title intrigued me and the excerpt they had on the post about how the book discusses the stereotypes facing Middle Eastern Women definitely caught my attention.
So on a Thursday evening, I drove to the iconic Diwan Zamalek, and took a seat amongst the crowd. It was a full house, the place was packed, and the crowd was interesting. So diverse; young females, older ladies, young men and a few older gentlemen were there as well.I went with intrigue, but to be very honest, I didn’t have very high hope that I was going to fall in love with the book. For some reason I went to the book signing thinking it was going to be some “angry feminist book” if that makes any sense. So why did I go? Because curiosity is one of my most prominent character traits ever since I was a child.
Then Alya started reading a small passage from the book and I was instantly hooked. Why? Her writing style, the way she read, it was like hearing my thoughts outloud!! She wrote in the manner I thought. She spoke the same written language as me. I involuntarily smiled as she read, I could tell that I would love the writing style and enjoy it very much, even if I wasn’t so sure about the content (remember this was still the very beginning of the book signing), so I decided, there and then, that I would buy the book.
Alya describes the context of this book as the greater freedom to not be oneself, to step out of the stereotypes and the cultural norms. I’m not gonna get into details about the actual content because I don’t want to ruin the book for you. She believes that this book is relatable to Middle Eastern women living in the western world, or outside what we call “home”. But I disagree with Alya, this book relates to every woman, period.
The struggles, the stereotypes, the realisations the author makes in this short, but irresistible read, are to me universal to all females. It speaks of the truths, the frustrations, the joys, the fears and the journey that is applicable to practically every modern day female.
The book took me by a very pleasant surprise. Mooro discusses the thoughts we are forced to internalise sometimes because of the cultural norms. She discusses all these “norms” we are taught as children, and breaks them down for us, explores them with us, and speaks the reality a lot of us wish to, but are afraid to say it, because we are scared of society judging us.
Females are always taught to be a certain way, since birth, regardless of our ethnicity, social class, education or upbringing. We are taught to be timid, we are taught to be non-sexual (publicly, but a man-pleasing seductive goddess in private), we are taught to be second in drive and ambition to men, we are taught so many “norms” that generations before us believed without thought, accepted with minimal fight and expected us to follow in their footsteps.
Thankfully, our generation is taking a more challenging approach (some of us, that is) to believing these norms. We now learn to question, to fight back, to push back, and we learn, not to settle. Alya in her book, speaks on behalf of most of us that are walking that walk, and it’s universal. She vocalises the thoughts that a lot of females in the Middle East, and other cultures are afraid to speak. She pushes the boundaries for us, covering relationships with partners, with parents, with our home countries, cultures and friends. She explores the consequences of certain thought processes, parenting styles, and personal boxes we confine ourself to because of our thoughts.
I was brought up in a very cosmopolitan environment, I was brought up with what is considered very liberal parents by Egypt’s standards. I was born and raised outside Egypt, and lived a free, independent life as a female. I moved back a few years ago, and I experienced all the things I “should be” according to my culture here. I first hand experienced all the stereotype that other females, thousands of miles away, who have never met me, or met my family or my circle of interaction experience in their parallel worlds. This is why I found this book relatable, this is why I believed that it speaks to more than just the Middle Eastern female mind.
To all the men out there as well, in case you’re wondering if you should read this book, I definitely recommend that you do. This book gives you a small window to see the world through your female friend, girlfriend, sister, wife, partner’s view. It gives you an insight on the world we live in, the struggles we feel, the liberations we’re after, and why some of us won’t settle.
So, thank you Alya for this excellent read, thank you for verbalising a lot of our thoughts to so many masses. Thank you to Diwan for this opportunity and supporting such discussions, authors and progress and bringing it forth to Egypt. Finally, thank you to every female who refused to settle, to fit in a confined mould that she doesn’t feel she belongs in.
I really hope you check out “The Greater Freedom”, and that you enjoy reading it as much as I did. In the meantime, to every person out there: Be inquisitive, be a challenger, be yourself, be free and never settle.