Elan has a piece about women being shortchanged on the IPAF (Arabic Booker) shortlists.
This criticism follows that of Susannah Tarbush, published last month, but lacks her question: Why? Instead, Sara Elghobashy implies that women are being kept off the Arabic Booker list because of their gender.
I believe in gender discrimination, yes. And surely gender discrimination is involved here as elsewhere in our world(s). But I can’t think the issue is so simple as one of exclusion. If it were, we could point to the women’s books that should’ve been on the shortlist.
But I don’t see any pointing. Personally, I love pointing, but in this instance I can’t. When I point, it’s to Sonallah Ibrahim’s al-Talossos (Stealth), which should’ve won the IPAF in 2007 (or at least, good grief!, been on the shortlist). Or I point at Mohamed Mansi Qindeel’s Moon Over Samarqand, which I’d call the most underappreciated Egyptian book of 2009. (It appeared in Arabic in 2004, before there was a such thing as the Arabic Booker, so we can’t blame them for this one.)
Perhaps women aren’t sufficiently encouraged to write; perhaps women need to be able to brush the censors off their shoulders and tell things as they see them; perhaps, perhaps, but I’m not sure it’s something the IPAF can fix.