The annual Sheikh Zayed Book Awards event is known for supporting women in Arab literature and the 2021 edition didn’t disappoint. Here are two Arab women who merited some of the prestigious awards given out this year, taking home a gold medal bearing the Sheikh Zayed Book Award logo, a certificate of merit and a cash reward.
Dr Asma Muqbil Awad Al-Ahmadi
Young Author Winner - Dr Asma Al Ahmadi
Saudi academic and critic Dr Asma Muqbil Awad Al-Ahmad picked up the Young Author 2021accolade for “Problems of the Narrated Self in the Saudi Feminist Novel” (Eshkalyat Al-Thaat Al-Saredah Fee Al-Rwayah Al-Nesaayah Al-Saudiah). In the winning work, Al-Ahmadi dives into the themes of female identity through the lens of Saudi Arabian feminist literature (1999-2012). The innovative piece focuses on topics that female Saudi writers have explored, such as belonging and self-realization.
Al-Ahmadi, who is working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Islamic Culture and Language Skills in King Abdulaziz University’s College of Science and Arts, is also behind 2013’s “The Phenomenon of Departure in the Short Story in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” (Thaherat Al Raheel fee Al Qessah Al Qaserah fee Al Mamlakah Al Arabiah Al Saudiah). In addition, the winner of the Sharjah Prize for Gulf Women's Creativity 2019 has penned a collection of stories entitled “Between them is an Isthmus..” (Baynahma Barzakh). Al-Ahmadi, who holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy, specializing in Arabic Language and Literature, has worked on a number of refereed scientific research and literary posts and other texts and studies published in local and Arab newspapers and magazines too.
Literature Winner - Iman Mersal
Iman Mersal, an Egyptian poet, writer, academic and translator, is the winner of the Literature category this year thanks to her book entitled “Accent: the Displaced Voice” (Al Laknah: Al Sawt fee Ghair Makaneh). The book traces the life of late Egyptian writer Enayat al Zayat, who died tragically in the 1960s. As a multi-genre work, there’s a mix of storytelling, research, investigative journalism and other techniques as Mersal tells the late author’s story. Mersal also combines biographical and autobiographical insights to provide readers with a balanced, critical look at Al Zayat’s life and writing.
Mersal, who works as an Associate professor of Arabic literature and Middle Eastern studies at Canada’s University of Alberta, has had an anthology of her works translated into over 20 languages. The writer who is currently living in in Marseilles, France, where she holds the Albert Camus chair at the Institute for Advanced Study of Aix-Marseille University until July, has also had five poetry collections published. Mersal’s 90s poetry book, “A Dark Path Suitable for Learning to Dance,” (Mamar Moetem Yasloh fee Talom Al Raks) is one of the most important Arabic poetry books of that time.
Her most recent published works include “In the Footsteps of Enayat Al-Zayyat” (Fee Athar Enayat Al Zayyat), which she wrote in 2019, and 2017’s “How to Amend: On Motherhood and its Ghosts” (Kayfa Taltaem: Aan Al Omoma wa Askhbahuha).
Mersal has also written “Until I Abandon the Idea of Homes” (Hatta Atakhlla Aan Fekrat Al Boyot).