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The list with all the LGBT-themed books and articles covered by Medio Oriente e Dintorni in the first 5 years of its history
Be free to be whoever you want
“Civilizations encourage the flowering of our hypocrisies. And in doing so they undermine the only plausible promise of globalization, namely that we will all be free to invent ourselves. Why, exactly, can’t a Muslim be European? Because a non-religious person can’t be Pakistani?Why can’t a man be a woman?Why can’t a gay person be married?
Bastards. Spurious. Half-Blood. Outcasts. Deviants. Heretics. Our words for hybridity are often insulting. It shouldn’t be like this. Hybridity is not necessarily the problem. It could be the solution. Hybridity means more than mere mixing between groups. Hybridity reveals that the boundaries between groups are false. And this is fundamental, because creativity arises from heterogeneity, from the refusal of a deadly purity. If there were only one human being, our species would become extinct.”From “Discontent and Its Civilizations” by Mohsin Hamid
I wanted at all costs to start talking about the LGBT world, starting with this quote from Mohsin Hamid, one of the writers who most influenced my way of thinking and seeing the world. In my ideal universe everyone must be free to be who and how they want; my dream is to try to see a happy and authentic humanity, not a new version of Star Wars clones. Precisely for this reason, despite being heterosexual, Cis and Sunni Muslim, I am proud to be able to say that, over the course of these 5 long years, I have published various articles, podcasts and videos in which I deal with topics far from me, such as content on Christianity, Shiism or the LGBT world.
Today’s list focuses on the latter, showing you 11 articles in which you can best explore this topic. Obviously all this cannot be in any way exhaustive for this topic, but in the future there will certainly be an opportunity to talk about it again, perhaps by inviting guests who experience this situation first-hand with all its advantages and problems; in the meantime I recommend you follow pages like ” Il grande colibrì” or “Sono l’Unica Mia“, which deal with it in detail. I also underline that not all the articles here focus exclusively on this topic, but all of them, in one way or another, talk about it.
Finally, I would like to say good luck to all the members of this and all other communities, because Medio Oriente e Dintorni will never discriminate against you and will always be an open and curious portal of differences and diversities; they are the treasure of humanity, a wealth of inestimable value, without which the world would be lost. Now we can finally start, let’s go in chronological order:
Mashrou’ Leila, the stars of Beirut (31.07.2018)
The most famous indie band in the entire Middle East. In less than ten years the Mashrou Leila have managed to establish themselves throughout the region and become a symbol of its contradictions.
I wanted to include this band in the list because, in addition to being some of the best musicians in the entire Middle East, they also have the characteristic of representing the LGBT community in the Arab world better than many others. This is certainly partly due to the homosexuality of Hamed Sinno, the voice of the group, but also to the incredible sensitivity of the band towards this issue; it’s no coincidence that they wrote the song” Kalam (S/He)” which refers precisely to homosexuality and it is no coincidence that the Egyptian activist Sarah Hijazi was imprisoned by the Egyptian government for displaying a rainbow flag at one of their concerts.
“Güneşi Gördüm” by Mahsun Kırmızıgül (1.08.2018)
A film that tells of a people and a nation full of contradictions and heavily split between East and West. Güneşi Gördüm by Mahsun Kırmızıgül is an ensemble film that will tell you the story of the Altun family, forced to flee to Istanbul from their beautiful Kurdish mountains. Available on Netflix Italia
The only film on the list, Güneşi Gördüm is extremely important for understanding contemporary Turkey and the rift between East and West, also touching on issues such as homosexuality. In fact, a protagonist, upon moving to Istanbul, discovers he is homosexual and this will lead his family to make very strong decisions towards him. I would like to specify that this is not the only theme of Güneşi Gördüm, but it is certainly one of those capable of impacting the viewer the most.
“The Sand Child” by Tahar Ben Jelloun (20.11.2018)
A timeless classic that pays homage to Morocco and its stories. The writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, like a snake trainer, will enchant us by telling us the story of Ahmed, born a woman but raised to be a man.
Even though I don’t deal directly with the LGBT world, I believe it is very important that such strong gender themes are not only present in Arabic literature, but some of these are rightly considered masterpieces of absolute value. “The Sand Child” is in fact still considered the most beautiful and fascinating book ever regarding the Moroccan world and I cannot help but include it in this list.
We’re back to talk to you about one of our absolute favorite writers, this time with his most personal book ever, a sort of diary thanks to which Mohsin Hamid will allow us to enter his life, to really tell us what globalization is.
I included it at the beginning and it really couldn’t not appear on this list. A book that can really open your mind and make you really understand what globalization should be; I won’t dwell on it too much just because I mentioned it at the beginning, but it is truly a hidden pearl capable of illuminating the abysses of the human mind.
“The Yacoubian Building” by ‘Ala Al Aswani (8.10.2019)
The symbolic novel of ‘Ala Al Aswani, life in a palace in the heart of Cairo to tell the story of the whole of Egypt. A fundamental masterpiece for understanding the evolution of Egyptian literature
Absolute masterpiece of Egyptian literature and a book that you absolutely must read to try to understand Egypt in the 90s/00s; except that there is a small problem: ‘Ala al Aswani’s imagery regarding homosexuality is incredibly stereotyped. I must say that at the time, not being homosexual, I didn’t realize it in any way, it was reading “Murder in Ramallah” that put a flea in my ear and made me understand all this better.
“A Crime in Ramallah” by Abbad Yahya (15.11.2020)
“A Crime in Ramallah” is a text that marks a decisive unicum in recounting some thorny issues of the Arab world, effectively bringing something revolutionary to local literature.
“A Crime in Ramallah” actually talks about the “not always irreproachable” behavior of the Palestinian police and the corruption within it, but it should rightly be considered a milestone in Arabic literature because one of the protagonists, despite being homosexual, is not introduced with none of the typical stereotypes of, for example, “The Yacoubian Building”.
Homosexuality and youth between Cairo and Ramallah (16.11.2020)
“A Crime in Ramallah” is a multi-faceted work that makes a comparison with some of our favorite Egyptian works extremely fascinating
A more in-depth analysis of what I told you before, but I won’t go into detail here because I have already mentioned the parallels between “The Yacoubian Building” and “A Crime in Ramallah” above.
“The Last One” by Fatima Daas (7.06.2022)
“The Last One” by Fatima Daas is an autobiographical text about a lesbian and Muslim girl that struck me particularly closely
The only book on this list actually written by an author belonging to the LGBT community. Honestly, it is something that moved me deeply and this is both because of some of my acquaintances and because it opens another great parenthesis: not all homosexuals consider this characteristic as a blessing. Often from the outside we don’t realize the incredible amount of problems and negative consequences that something like this entails and we forget about all the pain that those born homosexual still feel today, we forget about how many suicides occur every year alone for the struggle of continuing to live in a world where you are despised just for who you are.
Not only that, this book opens the door to the difficulties that a Muslim homosexual encounters every day (yes, they exist); a melancholic, poetic and enlightening book, one of the surprises of last year.
“Hshouma” by Zainab Fasiki (12.06.2022)
“Hshouma” by Zainab Fasiki is a real pearl which, in just 120 pages, will show you the evils that grip the sexual sphere of Moroccans both from the aspect of the law and from that of Hshouma, the “culture of shame” . A text that we should all read is that it really has a lot to teach
A 360° “sexual liberation manifesto”, focused on the Moroccan woman but open to all sexual and gender freedom, a text that, I confirm, we should all read.
“Undici storie di resistenza, undici anni della Turchia” by Murat Cinar is an anthology that will allow you to discover a hidden Turkey but which at the same time affirms its right to exist
The LGBT world is certainly one of the most hidden and opposed realities in Turkey and it is no coincidence that the great Murat Cinar brought many members of this community into his text; men and women who are extremely different from each other but accumulated by a single element: resisting, remaining themselves even at the cost of being opposed by the storm. A text capable of giving voice to those who are different, to those who appear invisible from the outside, but who are ready to do anything to affirm their right to exist.
“The Calamity of the Nobility” by Amira Ghenim (29.11.2022)
“The Calamity of the Nobility” by Amira Ghenim is an extremely powerful novel capable of making you experience the tragedies of two noble Tunisian families from the 1930s, years in which the foundations were laid for Bourguiba’s reforms, to the present day
Even though the main theme of the work is Tunisia and the evolution of local women’s rights, I cannot help but bring it, as one of the main protagonists is homosexual and this characteristic will prove decisive in his story. However, I would like to say that the discovery of his homosexuality is very similar to that told in The Yacoubian Building and therefore, at least in the first parts, there is a tendency to feed a lot of stereotypes (the homosexual protagonists are homosexual in that they are raped/exploited by “men perverse”), improving as it approaches the finale. Regardless of the LGBT issue, I want to recommend this book to you more than ever, because it is an authentic jewel and will help you discover Tunisian society at the beginning of the 20th century at its best.
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