The Sheikh Zayed Book Award announced yesterday its long-list for both categories; “Young Author” and “Children’s Literature”. The announcement comes after the Award’s Reading Panels concluded their work earlier this month.
The Sheikh Zayed Book Award also recognises authors in seven additional categories. The longlist works of each category will be further judged by a panel of professionals who will compile a shortlist for each category. The winners in each category will each receive Dhs750,000 cash prize (total prize money for all categories stands at 7 million UAE dirhams), a certificate of merit as well as a gold medal. Winners will be announced in March, ahead of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
Last year, Jawdat Fakhr-elDine from Lebanon won the “Children’s Literature” title for his book “Thirty Poems for Children” (top left), while Rami Abu Shihab from Jordan (top right) was named winner of “Young Author” Award for his book analysing the Post-Colonial discourse in the contemporary Arab criticism.
The books in the children's literature (including adolescents’ books):
1. Al fatat allati iqtafat aathar shakhsyyat Ibn Al Muqaffa’ (The girl who traced the characters of Ibn Al Muqaffa’) by Nabiha Mheidli, Lebanon, Dar Al Hada’eq (2014)
2. Al Samaka Al Mufakkir (The Thinking Fish) by Hassan Abdalla, Lebanon, Dar Al Adab (2013)
3. Khalf al Abwab al Mughlaqa (Behind Closed Doors) by Samah Idris, Lebanon, Dar Al Adab (2014)
4. Qit shaqi jiddan (A Very Mischievous Cat) by Abeer Al Taher, Jordan, Dar Al Yasmeen (2014)
5. Sitt al Koll by Taghreed Al Najjar, Jordan, Al Salwa Books (2013)
6. Qissitna Sarat mathal (Our Story Turned Into a Proverb) by Talal Hasan, Iraq, Dar Al Buraq (2014)
7. Waraqet al Hayat (The leaf of life) by Amira Al Marzouqi, UAE, Dar Al Alam Al Arabi (2014)
8. Wajaddtu Baytan (I found a home) by Sahar Abdallah, Egypt, Dar Al Maktabah Al Arabiya (2014)
The “Young Author” longlist:
1. Al Raheel (Migration) by Mohammed Hasan Alwan, KSA, Dar Al Saqi (2014)
2. Balaghat Al ‘aqel Al ‘arabi (The Intellect of the Arab Mind) by Mohammed Al Dakkan, KSA, Arab Cultural Center (2014)
3. Sharq Al Da’iri (East Ring Road) Novel by Khaled Ahmed, Egypt, Dar Al Masri (2014)
4. Al aja’ibi fil Sard Al Arabi Al Qadeem (The Magic in ancient Arabic Tales) by Nabil Elshahed, Egypt, Dar Al Warraq (2012)
5. Sani’ Al Ala’ab (The Playmaker) by Ahmad Mohsen, Lebanon, Nofal- Hachette Antoine (2013)
6. Burkini (Burkini) by Maya Al Hajj, Lebanon, Al IKhitlaf (Algeria); Dhifaf (KSA) (2014)
7. Harakyyet Al Badee’ fil Khitab Al Shi’ri (Aesthetics of Poetic Discourse) by Said Laouadi, Morocco, Kunouz Al Ma’rifa (2014)
8. Manzilat Al Tamtheel fi falsafat Ibn Rushd (Representation in Ibn Rushd’s Philosophy) by Fouad Ben Ahmed, Morocco, Dar Dhifaf (2014)
9. Krakato (Krakato) by Muhra Bint Ahmad, UAE, Al Dar Al Arabiya Lil Oloum (2013)
September continues, it seems, to be the month of challenges. This time? A challenge on Facebook to list the 10 books that left their mark in some way.
After much thought here are my 10 book choices in no particular order:
1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
2. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyovsky
3. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
4. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis
5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
6. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
7. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
8. Wild Swans by Jung Chang
9. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
10. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
I would like to add another 5 that I toyed with adding to the top list because they have added to the pleasure of reading:
1. The Map of Love by Ahdaf Soueif
2. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck & East of Eden by John Steinbeck
3. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
4. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
5. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
It is never easy to write fiction based on sensitive topics that polarise people’s opinions in real life. There are just so many elements to take into consideration. One is the fear of adding ambiguity to an already misunderstood subject and another is to end up dictating to the reader expected ethical and moral behaviours instead of allowing them to struggle, think, pose questions and come up with solutions based on their own perspective of the scenario in hand.
The situation is further complicated when a particular work of writing is aimed at young readers addressing what many may consider ill-advised issues better left alone, which means that these subjects are less likely to have ever been discussed with parents, peers and educators regardless of whether the young reader is aware of them or not. So, a thorny question here would be: how does one present such work which, regardless of message, steers clear from off-putting, moralistic preaching as well as removes the stigma associated with airing such topics out in the open which will bridge the way for constructive discourse and ultimately more social awareness of pressing topics.
Ami Polonsky’ s main character, Grayson, in her recent novel ‘Gracefully Grayson’ is a lonely, confused sixth-grader who lives with uncle Evan (dad’s brother), and his wife Sally, cousin Jack, and brother Brett. Grayson’s parents are dead. As life-altering an experience such as this is to contend with for any child, Grayson’s life is further complicated by a secret that consumes this child’s everyday life, dominating all thoughts and crippling any ability to fit in with classmates at school or even communicating with the once-friendly cousin, Jack, at home.
The secret? Although born a boy, Grayson feels trapped in a body he does not want. With daydreams of how life as a girl could be, he is ridden by both happiness at the prospect that his dream may one day become reality and an acute feeling of dread that he will be ridiculed and judged. Events at home and a major one at school instigate a series of actions that will change not only Grayson’s life forever but also the lives of all those near and dear as they are forced to deal with the very taboo, very misunderstood subject of Gender Dysphoria.
Ami Polonsky proves she is a worthy writer who has done her research well. I can find no more accurate, consummate adjective than ‘graceful’ when I tell people about this touching, beautifully written little book. A novel brimming with characters that are not only believable and well rounded yet are continuously growing and evolving. Polonsky manages to deal with all her characters with sensitivity and wisdom and when harsh judgments and stereotyping unavoidably break through to the surface she is sure to avoid sensationalism.
A book of heroes.
Expected Publication: November 4, 2014
Check out Ami Polonsky website HERE
'Observing the Emirates Through Film', an event taking place on September 23, is the screening of the Emirati film 'Sea Shadow' which I've seen (read review HERE) and is well worth the hype. An extra exciting detail is the fact that it will be held at Qasr Al Hosn Centre in Abu Dhabi, a stunning place to say the least. I am going to try my hardest to be there, however nothing is certain yet (all depends on JJ and his after-school activities).
This screening of Emirati filmmaker Nawaf Al Janahi’s acclaimed film will be followed by a conversation about the research and creative process behind its production with Mr. Al Janahi and a circle of other national filmmakers and critics.
Speaker: Nawaf Al Janahi, Manal Wicki, Khalid Mohammed (Emirati Filmmakers)
Moderators: Ozge Calafato, Dr. Nezar Andary
The event is open to the public but prior registration is required. To register or for more information, please call 02 697 6472, or Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
About the film:
Set in a small seaside neighbourhood in the United Arab Emirates, 'Sea Shadow' follows two teenagers Mansoor and Kaltham as they struggle with tradition and convention in their journey towards adulthood. Bound by family and deeply rooted values, the pair must find the courage to forge their own paths.
'Sea Shadow' held its World Premier at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival in October 2011 and was released in theatres throughout the Gulf Arab States in November 2011. It premiered in the United States at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in January 2012 and went on to be officially selected in over twenty international film festivals.
I finally got round to watching‘When I Saw You’, a Palestinian film directed by AnneMarie Jacir. This has been on my list since it came out in 2012 and each time I’ve set my mind on watching it, something would come up.
However, last weekend, armed with popcorn and my laptop, making sure Mr. Fabulous was engrossed in the football, and JJ equally occupied with his Xbox, I pressed play and voila, here’s what it’s all about.
Did you know that Iran is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the country with the most number of capitals in history? I heard that yesterday at a lecture entitled ‘The Decline & Fall of the Safavid Dynasty’ given by guest speaker at NYU Abu Dhabi, Dr. Rudi Matthee, who serves as the John and Dorothy Munroe Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Delaware, where he teaches Middle Eastern history, with a research focus on early modern Iran and the Persian Gulf.
The one and a half-hour lecture took place at the recently built, impressive NYU Abu Dhabi premises in the Saadiyat Culture District, which is also home to the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute Conference Centre which ‘comprises a 300-seat lecture hall, a 185-seat auditorium, meeting rooms, and an entrance lobby that provides informal breakout areas for delegate interaction and discussion. It is the home of the NYUAD Institute, which provides a public forum for distinguished international thinkers to exchange ideas and engage with the Abu Dhabi community’.
Dr. Matthee, author of several publications, the latest ‘Persia in Crisis’, shed light on the Safavids, one of the most significant ruling dynasties of Persia (modern Iran), that lasted from 1501-1722. The Safavids’ rule included all of modern day Iran as well as part of Georgia and Turkey but some would argue that they had the shorter straw sandwiched between two major powers at the time: The Ottomans in the West, and the Mughals in the East.
So, why are they important? Because it turns out that the decisions they took and implemented have had repercussions that have extended well into modern day Iran.
1. The Safavids were to the first to impose Shi’ii Islam, banning all other religions as well as all forms of Islam including Sufism and Sunni Islam.
2. They unified the area with a core language: Persian.
3. The Safavids actualized a process of ‘Persianisation’ both at the state level and in society.
Dr. Matthee went on to outline why the Safavids may have been doomed to fall from the day they came into power. One reason was their unenviable position between the two super powers at the time and the country’s scarce resources of timber (which is required to build ships hence no navy), and the extensive exploitation of its silver and gold by the British East India company and the Dutch Company which the Empire had joined forced with to further its economy and to protect itself from the Ottomans.
Other elements include the geography of the land which contrary to popular belief is a vast land of dry desert, lacking in major water sources or navigable rivers. The majority of the population were nomads with non-existent urbanisation programs from the capital’s leaders. A major nail in the coffin was the decrease of secular power and the rise of religious power particularly at the time of Mohamed Baqir Majlisi in 1699 who reestablished clerical authority under his leadership and was responsible for propagating religious rituals that continue to this day in modern Iran.
‘The Safavids fell hard and quick due to real non-military efficiency’, explains Matthee. ‘They declared peace with the Ottomans and saw no need to reinforce the army’. What didn’t help matters at all was their un-neighbourly attitude towards the tribes on the periphery (the ethnic Iranians) who the Dynasty failed to placate and accommodate which ultimately meant that ‘the periphery turned on the centre rendering it a state hollowed out from the inside succumbing finally to tribal wars,’ explained Matthee.
There are lessons to be learned when history is studied and reviewed. What the Safavids prove is that ‘for empires to exist allowances must be made. You cannot impose a dominant discourse that alienates the peripheries (the Sunnis, Christians, Armenians and the Jews in the case of the Safavids) without creating detrimental fissures’ concluded Dr. Matthee.
For more on NYU Abu Dhabi Institute of public lectures, click HERE
For a review of 'Persia in Crisis' by Dr. Rudi Matthee, click HERE
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