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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical. Reflective. Beautiful. That's just the half of it, 2 Sept. 1999
By A Customer
A very intimate autobiography because it's not an autobiography at all, it's about 'border passages' -- from child to adulthood, women's communities to patriarchal ones, citizenship to immigrant, and has stirred in me a strong desire to learn more about Islam. It blew a lot of my misconceptions out of the water, but in an incidental fashion: not, "You all think Muslim women are like this, you're wrong, here's the truth", but "when I was a child, I grew up this way, in a woman's community filled with the oral teachings of Islam, oral culture, oral tradition..." lots of wonderful and instructive reminisences about her family and culture and growing up in Egypt during the time that Nassar came to power, the era when the word "Arab" was redefined, and the impact of her parents, her immediate family, and their beliefs on the sum and substance of her own life. In the course of this discussion is embedded a course on Egyptian history from the eyes of both a child, and the adult scholar who turned her attention to her own home and history.
Ahmed's comments on coming to America at the height of '60s feminism', when white middle-class women where questioning fundamental tenets of their society, yet being discouraged from asking similar questions of her own society's tenets, a pressure many 'feminists of color' experienced, was of particular interest to me. I think there may be an interesting parallel between that experience and the pressure on Third Wave feminists by some older feminists to not stray from the path established by them in the 60s, to not ask our own questions.
Ahmed's discussion of the impact of a literary emphasis on education in a culture that is predominately oral has caused me to question my own rigid assumption that if "it isn't written down, it didn't happen". She makes a fascinating point about patriarchal ideas of Islam being proliferated by 'Western' educational systems that assign more credence to the written word than the oral tradition. The story of Islam that is distributed to the world, is that of a bunch of dead misogynists, not the living religion. I find this fascinating, having had more exposure to Christianity than any other religion, which is a faith that is based on its literature -- though the faith is studied and transmitted orally by a minister to a flock, it is still based on the written word, and the faithful are expected to read that word.
An oral Islam, a women's Islam, contemplated, discussed, refined, educated in women's communities, very seperate from the written Islam, the men's Islam, is a religious division I had never considered. It's excited me to learn more about this Islam.
In sum, A Border Passage covers a great deal of ground, in an intimate, contemplative fashion: social (life in Egypt, England, the United Arab Emirates, and the USA), psychological (her parents, her moral and religious education, and passage into adulthood), and political (Arab nationalism, colonialism, post-colonialism, race in England, race and feminism in America ), all wrapped up in fundamental discussions of self-identity. Worth every moment spent reading it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It is a must-have book., 14 Jun. 1999
By A Customer
Reading this book was such an exciting and exuberant experience. As I was going through the book, I had this inexplicable feeling that Ahmed was talking about myself, my childhood, my Turkish descent, my life in Cairo before moving into the States three years ago, and my summer vacations in Alexandria. Ahmed elucidated her ethos and beliefs ardently and unfeignedly that every reader will be able to feel her sincerity and genuineness. In doing that, Ahmed presented a neat and precise summary of the Egyptian modern history. which to me, an Egyptian by birth, born after Nasser's era, was an undiscovered treasure.
To me, Egypt after Independence was a puzzle, and Ahmed's book helped me to put the bits and pieces together. Eventually, I was able to understand why the Egyptian people have different positions toward Socialism brought about by Nasser and his faction and why my father, a lawyer by profession and a capitalist by birth always hated Nasser and disrespected his party.
Albeit English is her second language, Ahmed's command of the lanaguage is prodigious. For non-Egyptians, I expect the book to be as interesting as it is for the natives. This book represents an intricately structured state-of-the-art mini-encyclopedia of Sociology, Psychology and History flowing naturally and smoothly. This is the kind of book, I, first generation Egyptian immigrant, would keep for my children and grand children as a reference they could get back to during their life journey.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book for the honest description of Leila.s story, 7 Jun. 1999
By A Customer
I thoroughly enjoyed reading "A Border Passage" by Professor Leila Ahmad. The book contains an honest downright description of events and environments as experienced by the author through several periods of her life, e.g., as a young girl, as an adolscent, as an adult etc. The author questions the way of life of people around her, their traditions and religiosity. I was particularly impressed where the author examined the day to day practices of traditional Islam in the Egyptian society and questioned the secondary and inconsequential position accorded to the women folk. The situation is very much similar in other Islamic countries also as for example in Pakistan from where I derive my ethnic roots. Her description of oral and aural Islam and men's and women's Islam is so very real. I completely agree with her when she says that the Islam in practice these days is what was interpretted and codified by the medieval muslim jurisprudents. It is outdated and needs reinterpretation to suit the needs and social demands of present time. However who is going to do it and whether such a reinterpretation will generally be acceptable to the practitioners is not easy to understand.
I greatly admire Professor Ahmad for her honest narration of her life story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply insightful woman's journey between cultures, 7 May 1999
By A Customer
A courageous trip in search of identity of a woman's inter and intracultural challenges. Growing up in an affluent Egyptian family where the British and European culture was "fashionable", she was confronted by the changes of the revolution, political turmoil and nationalism and its confrontation to the European imperialism. Leila Ahmed is courageously and insightfully analysing changes that influenced a whole generation and challenged her to search for answers. She travels in time from Egypt to England and finally as an immigrant in the US. She objectively and sensitively tries to unwind the entangled conflicts of politics, religion, and culture, through her personal experiences. As an Egyptian immigrant woman, although from a different generation, I have learned from this book about the modern history of Egypt and identified with some of her experiences as well. This is a eloquently written book and a fascinating journey!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provoking but readable autobiography, 6 Sept. 2000
By A Customer
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This book tells the author's experience of growing up in a priviledged Egyptian family (living through the Nasser Revolution and the Suez crisis), then moving to study and work in England and later the US.
It is a thoughtful and thought-provoking, yet very readable, book.
As an Englishwoman living in Cairo, and struggling to understand a culture very different from my own, I found Leila Ahmed's book fascinating and enlightening. The part about how Egypt's identity as an "Arab" state and nation is a recent construct, explained some things which I had been wondering about. (for example, why a Bedouin colleague here refers to himself as an Arab, as opposed to the Egyptians ... and why the Egyptians say "the Arabs" to mean the Gulf Arabs).
But there is lots more than that in the book - about the oral traditions of Islam, about womens experience, about becoming an immigrant...and very readable because written from a personal , not a theoretical, point of view.
I could not restrain a sense of irritation with some of the author's descriptions of her priviledged milieu ... but then forgave her everything when she pointed out (I thought this funny as well as perceptive) that it's OK to have servants in the West as long as you don't call them servants but "assistants" or "the woman who comes in to do some cleaning".
I think many different people will get something out of this book, because of (something that Salman Rushdie talks about) the way that the experience of the clash and mixing of different cultures is so central to our modern world.
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A Border Passage: From Cairo to America - A Woman's Journey
A Border Passage: From Cairo to America - A Woman's Journey by Leila Ahmed (Paperback - 24 April 2012)
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