The Middle East has long held a romantic fascination for the west, characterised by the popular sheikh romance. Yet, as myself and others have argued (Burge 2016; Jarmakani 2015; Teo 2012) in these novels Middle Eastern women are often depicted as helpless, veiled, and silent. This paper approaches romance, gender and the Middle East from a different perspective, analysing two novels written by Middle Eastern women that respond to and challenge the way western popular romance has represented women and the Middle East.
- silence Islamic women for the white heroine
Rise of Islamic chick lit:
These books have the competencies of chick lit genre:
- Urban setting
- Focus on commerce
- Multiple romantic partners rather than single partner
- Cover design and palatte
- Both books explore the exploits of a group of 4 friends
- Both blend western Romantic culture with Arab culture
- References to popular culture and prominent Arab personalities
- Neither was written for a global audience initially
- Both were actually banned for a while but now available
- The novels celebrate the western heritage of the ‘chicklit foremothers’ but at the same time they are critical of it
Authors were very aware of the exoticism of Arab women in sheik romance, and wanted to make sure they weren’t doing the same thing
- Author Amber Al-Hakawati acknowledges the influence of chick lit but specifically avoids writing sheikh romance and it’s problematic overtones
- It takes away the exoticism, and gives characters depth.
- She wanted to write a more thoughtful reflection on the representation of Arab men and women.
- Girls of Riyadh has a more literary aspiration.
- Author Rajaa Alsanea tries to position it against literary fiction while at the same time claiming not to be worthy of such classification.
What makes a romance ‘global’ or local’?
Girls Of Riyadh and Desperate in Dubai are dual citizens – inserted in their own literary traditions in addition to western foremothers