In a fast-growing world where the screen is rapidly battling the page, a literary festival has become a delicacy for the bookish to enjoy. We, the bookish, are pleased to announce that The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (Emirates Lit Festival) is taking place from the 1st -10th of March 2018. With handpicked authors from around the world to share their finest pieces of work, we take pride in the fact that one of our very own will be participating in this festival, sharing her work alongside a range of international greats.
Dr. Shahd Al-Shammari is known for producing thoughtfully analytical works in Literary Madness in British, Postcolonial, and Bedouin Women’s Writing (2016), heartwarming poetry in Forget the Words (2016), and On Love and Loss (2015), and short, sweet and powerful prose in The Secret of 50/50 (2017). Focusing on Women’s Studies, the young Kuwaiti authoress is also an assistant professor at GUST University.
With research areas under her belt including Women’s Studies, Disability Studies in literature, and most recently, illness narratives, her latest book Notes On The Flesh (2017) aptly acts as a collection of short stories dealing with gender, race, and disability issues in Kuwait. Having participated in book festivals and worldwide conferences prior, this work continues to attract academic and public interest, and will be featured alongside Shahd in the 2018 Emirates Lit Festival. To commemorate this proud moment, we sit down with Shahd to discuss her thoughts on literature, and what it means to her to be the accomplished writer she has become, spreading the word of the pen today.
Do you believe that modern, regional literature is valuable to our everyday lives? If so, how?
Of course, these are the narratives that matter. We need voices from Arab women writers and a platform to discuss new narratives of what is really happening in our worlds. We need to write ourselves.
Being a young published author, do you feel that your literature targets a specific age range? Or is it rather, inclusive?
My work is actually aimed at all women, but specifically women with a sense of alienation due to disability, sexuality, and/or social oppression. I don’t think it is age specific at all, but rather its interest is to be inclusive of women and minority groups.
How do you feel about the fact that regional Middle Eastern literature now includes English language prose more frequently than ever before?
I think this argument that we should only write in mother tongue is outdated. English is now “Englishes”, and we truly can have two mother tongues, one is the language we adopt, the other is the one we are born with. I feel that English is a way I can tell my story to the world regardless of any language or social barrier.
Which of your works can we expect to find in the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature? How does it feel to participate in this festival?
One of my dreams as a literature undergrad student was to participate in the festival. Today as an author and a professor of literature I am here. This is a dream come true for me. My work is Notes on the Flesh, which is a collection of short stories that deals with love and disability in the Middle East. It is partly non-fictional and partly fiction.
How do you feel that literature has changed over the years, and how must we work to preserve it for future generations?
Literature is definitely more inclusive now, more flexible in terms of genre, and it has become a tool for social and political expression even more so in the region. Young writers and readers feel it is theirs, not reserved only for scholars of literature. It continues to thrive. The Emirates Lit Festival is a beautiful time of the year and I know it will continue to preserve literature in the region.
Which is your proudest piece?
Notes on the Flesh includes many stories but my proudest piece, or shall I say, dearest to my heart, is ‘Forty’ because it deals with grief in a very raw manner and was very difficult to write.
Shahd Al Shammari (on Instagram @drshahdals) will be speaking at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature from 1-10 March 2018. Get your Early Bird Discount Tickets online today at tickets.emirateslitfest.com.