The Jordan Times reviews “The Bride of Amman” and they love it!


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A review for The Bride of Amman on The Jordan Times by Sally Bland. Posted on 5th July 2015.

Full review:

The book cover displays the cognitive dissonance and inner conflict experienced by all the major characters in “The Bride of Amman”. While the title would seem to signal happiness, the face of the woman pictured next to it is full of anxiety and pain. Marriage, and all the expectations attached to it, is just one of the societal norms which author Fadi Zaghmout problematises in his novel.

Hard-hitting prose quickly draws the reader into the lives of four young women and a man living in today’s Amman. They are close friends and share many things, not least, the risk of total devastation if they do not abide by the rules. Some refuse to be boxed in by social norms and consciously make defiant choices, while others are unwittingly set on a collision course with family and society through no fault of their own. All are seeking love and respect. They start off as irrepressible romantics, but events carve hard, cynical edges on their souls, as they discover that it is hard to remain true to their values and dreams amidst pervasive social pressure to conform.

Leila’s happiness at obtaining her degree is marred when she finds that this is not enough for her parents, relatives and neighbours, who consider it only a prelude to marriage. It is not that she rejects the idea of marriage, but she had hoped for more recognition of her academic achievement.

Salma, Leila’s older sister, suffers from remaining single, and is deeply wounded upon hearing her grandmother describe her as “an unplucked fruit left to rot”, as she nears her thirtieth birthday — her “expiry date”. (p. 22)

The story shows that judging women only by their marriageability can have catastrophic consequences.

Hayat loses her job when someone reports on her relationship with a married man, leaving her feeling vulnerable and terrified at the loss of social respect and of income she needs to finish university and contribute to her family’s upkeep. Her vulnerability is amplified by her father’s sexual abuse, which colours her self-esteem and relationships.

Rana has a more analytical view of society than her friends: “I’m rebellious by nature… very conscious of the contradictory messages I get from the world around me. Everyone seems to want to construct my moral framework for me, in a society that strikes me as schizophrenic and very masculine. Whereas I’m a female, a young woman trying to feed a craving for gender equality and personal freedom.” (p. 38)

But her awareness doesn’t protect her entirely from the dilemmas she faces after falling in love with a Muslim — a love she must keep secret from her conservative Christian family.

Ali is also under a lot of pressure to get married. In fact, he does want a family, but his preference for his own sex means that a traditional marriage would be living a lie.

By letting his characters tell their stories, Zaghmout delivers a radical critique of society from a feminist/outsider perspective, producing one of few books written by men that convincingly convey the women’s angle. Michael Cunningham’s “The Hours”, Amitov Ghosh’s “Sea of Poppies” and Arthur Golden’s “Memoirs of a Geisha” come to mind.

Zaghmout’s book is not a literary novel like theirs; in fact, it verges on melodrama, but it is a story that needs to be told, a novel that obviously emerges from strong motivation to catalyse social change. Having originally written “The Bride of Amman” in Arabic testifies that his aim is to generate discussion, not simply to expose.

Transgressing taboos opens the characters up to new sides of their personalities and more positive ways of relating to others. “Are our ideas like clothes?” Leila queries. “They seem to fit initially, but they become too small for us as our awareness about our surroundings grows, and then it’s perhaps time to throw them off and replace them with new ways of thinking.” (p. 227)

While Zaghmout declares war on outdated social norms that complicate and sometimes destroy people’s lives, he does not declare war on society as such. The story points to a number of avenues for reconciliation if only people are open-minded and respectful of others’ individuality and dreams. “The Bride of Amman” is a brave intervention in a debate that is going on just below the radar. Let’s bring it out in the open, he seems to be saying.

“The Bride of Amman” is out for pre-orders


I can’t believe that this is finally happening. The English translation of “Aroos Amman” is finally ready and up for pre-orders. It is already out there on Amazon.com (paperback)! and a publishing date is set on 21th July. I am so happy about the translation and so thankful for Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp who has done a great job in brining my written words into English. I am also very thankful for my publisher (signal8press) for the great work put into ensuring best quality of the English production. It was a long process but I enjoyed working with both of them and witnessed them shaping what I thought to be a good book even better.

When I first started blogging in 2006, I wanted to communicate issues of sexual and body rights that were not addressed by traditional media at the time. I could see how our cultural heritage and obsession in regulating sexuality is making an already tough life due to economical conditions even tougher. I wanted to open missed debates around these issues in hope of change. Few years down the road, I was able to collect my thoughts into a full story, a novel that came out in January 2012. At the time, I didn’t anticipate this success of Aroos Amman, and didn’t anticipate the huge amount I received. People seem to be fed up with the old doctrine that limits their body and sexual freedoms. They are happy to see someone bringing it up right front and are ready to fight for it themselves.

Today with the book coming out to English, I am hoping for a wider reach that could trigger even bigger change.

Thank you all for your love and support.

I dedicate this book to Arab young men and women: those who are struggling to conform, those who are fighting for autonomy over their own bodies, and those advocating for sexual rights.

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رواية عروس عمان

Coming to English This Summer: Fadi Zaghmout’s Controversial, Feminist ‘Bride of Amman’


This summer, Fadi Zaghmout’s debut novel, The Bride of Amman, will be released in English, trans. Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp:

Read full article on Arablit blog:

Coming to English This Summer: Fadi Zaghmout’s Controversial, Feminist ‘Bride of Amman’.

My Kali Interview, Celebrity of the week and Alef book club


Photo shoot My Kali Magazine

Photo shoot My Kali Magazine

It feels good to see the buzz of Arous Amman is still going through the country after more than two years of its debut. On thursday, I was hosted by Lama Zakharia for her radio show “Celebrity of the Week” on Beat FM. The interview was great, went super smooth with Lama being smart, spontaneous and professional as her audience know her. I am a big fan of her myself since I saw her performing last year in the Christmas’s musical of Dozan Awtar. I have also posted a while ago a video for her fighting sexual harassment by singing. She has an amazing voice and great talent. Watch out for her next projects. My interview will be aired next Thursday.

My interview with my kali magazine is published today after  much anticipation. These guys are really talented. We are blessed to have such artistic styled magazine in Jordan. The write-up is really good from the mutli-talented Mike Derderian. Mike is another one to admire, he is an artist who produces amazing illustrations, he is a brilliant writer and a great radio show host as well.  Along with the interview, my kali ran a stylised photo shoot for me. The photographs was taken by the wonderful Hiba Juda, make up by Amer Atta, hair by Ahmad Al Sa’ady, the making of video by Ala’a Abu Qasheh, and the cover/promo design by Atef Daglees. I feel so blessed to get to know all of these talented people. I also would like to dedicate a special thank you to Kali himself for putting the efforts into sustaining this magazine.

I like the smart headline of the interview “Here Comes the Groom!” in reference to me, the one behind the brides in Arous Amman.  And from the interview, I specially like these few lines:

Of course, don’t just take my word for it! It is a brilliant social commentary on an Arabian society filled with mothers, daughters and sisters; working women; married women; divorced women; women pursuing academia; sexually active women; and forlorn spinsters dreaming of the perfect Arab catch. Of course it also sheds light on the misogynistic Arab man; the oppressive father; the married man; the cheating husband; and the self-righteous cousin, who is looking for an excuse to burst the bubble of any of the over-achieving females in his tribe. The main controversy surrounding Aroos Amman most probably erupted from within the pages of the chapter in which a man thinks aloud after making love; making love to another man. I have to admit it was a shocking instance to read in a book written by an Arab Jordanian writer; almost as shocking as the rape scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, back in 1994.

I also had a very nice discussion around Arous Amman with Alef book club at the Good Bookshop. The discussion was complimented with a homosexuality debate. Before the debate started I had the chance to give a short presentation about gender and sexuality.  The issue was discussed openly from social, scientific and religious perspective. The event was organised very well and the crowd were respectful and polite. I was pretty much impressed by those youth (around 40 from both genders) discussing such matter openly and logically with full respect to each other opinion. At one point there was a veiled girl arguing against homosexuality talking closely to an openly gay man. Both were addressing their points of view genuinely with no sense of hatred towards each other. When the crowd were asked if they are with giving homosexuals their rights, most of them raised their hands in agreement! That’s something one doesn’t expect to happen in Jordan where a recent stat shows that 97% that society shouldn’t accept homosexuality! My Kali videoed the whole event, they should be posting it soon. I would also like to seize the chance and thank Tarek Abdo and Sanad Nowar for running this book club and organisation this event. That is courageous of them to tackle such issue.

Through Arous Amman I got to know about many book clubs in Jordan. I am happy to see these book clubs growing everywhere. I have to admit, Alef has just became one of my favourites. I wish them all the best.

One last good news, we are almost run out of copies of the 2nd edition of Arous Amman and will be working on a new print.

Salzburg Global Seminar: Advancing sexual expression and gender identity freedoms


Sex and the Citadel

Sex and the Citadel

I had a wonderful time in the past few days here at Salzburg Global Seminar, not just because of the lovely scenery of the Alps mountains or the beauty of the city of Salsburg but also because of the amount of people I got to know closely and connect with. People who came from all over the world (around 33 countries) to participate in a session that aims to set up a blue print for a more risiliant and healthy socieites of the future, societies that integrate within people with different forms of gender and sexual expressions without any prejudice, hatred, or violence.

The forum was pretty diverse and I am not talking here in terms of gender identities or sexual orientations only, but more about the diversity of the expertise and capacities of the participants; a large amount of successful professionals, political leaders, academics, activists, artists and media experts. One of the most impressive participants whom I grew to love and admire is the Egyptian author Shereen Al Feki. She presented her book “Sex and The Citadel” that sums up her five years of research about the contemporary sexuality of the Arab world. I realize that what she means by the “Citadel” is the institution of marriage and from what I heard about the book, it seems to carry the underline research to back up my observations of the Arab societies that I talk about in my book Aroos Amman (Amman’s Bride). It is all about the social obsession in marriage and how this institution is becoing harder and harder to achieve. Describing it as a “Citadel” is very smart and accurate indeed! I look forward to reading the book especially that she told me that she is interested in mentioning my novel in a potential update of her book (fingers crossed).

During the sessions, there been always this questions of identities and cultures and the validity of the acronym of LGBT in addressing the issues of sexual expressions and gender identities. I personally believe that such acronym is problematic  It is culturally biased in a way and restrictive and dividing in another. Those issues should go under the sexual expression and gender identities freedoms umbrella that is more inclusive in my opinion. For instance, I find no reason not to include the “W” in the Arab world, and here I am talking about women at large for they are more and more becoming to face a stronger aggression and hostility towards limiting and redefining their natural sexual expressions.

I would like to thank all of the staff at Salzburge Global Seminar for putting great efforts into organization such an important forum. The network built here is priceless and hopefully would help advancing human rights all over the world towards better societies for all of us. Thank you Klaus Muller (the chair organiser of the event)!

Last year, I participated in Stockholm Water Week and helped developing a young professional vision for the global food and water security and now I am helped coming up with a global statement to advance sexual expression and gender identity rights. It seems I am doing pretty well on the global front! Not bad at all. I guess that when you love the world, it loves you back 🙂