- Category: TOW 2004
Leila Abouzeid , born in 1950, is a pioneer among her Moroccan contemporaries in that she writes in Arabic rather than in French and is the first Moroccan woman writer of literature to be translated into English. After studying at the Mohamed V University in Rabat and The University of Texas, Austin, Leila Abouzeid began her career as a radio and TV journalist, and also worked as press assistant in government ministries and in the prime minister's office. Former Fellow of the World Press Institute at St. Paul, Minnesota, Leila Abouzeid left the press in 1992 to dedicate herself to writing fiction. Moroccan writers often employ the character of a storyteller to relate the events of their stories.
In her first novel, Year of the Elephant , many of the events of Abouzeid's narrative (divorce, the struggle against poverty, interfamilial conflict, etc.) are common themes in contemporary Moroccan literature, but are presented here in a new perspective – that of a woman. Abouzeid explores a number of themes throughout the story of the conflict between traditional culture and modernism, Moroccan society's valuation of women, and the meaning of independence at both the national and the individual levels. In Return to Childhood , Abouzeid charts her deeply personal journey through family conflicts ignited by the country's civil unrest during Morocco 's struggle for independence from French colonial rule.
Abouzeid's latest book, The Last Chapter , is a thought-provoking, semi-autobiographical story about a young Moroccan woman and her struggle to find an identity in the Morocco of the second half of the twentieth century. Shifting male/female relationships feature strongly in the narrative, as do clashes of modern and traditional Moroccan society, Islamic and Western values, as well as the older practices of sorcery and witchcraft. “With an author as talented as Abouzeid and the heroine an intellectual with the tongue of a Moroccan Dorothy Parker, there is a lot of substance to the novel” – commented the Cairo Times .
Abouzeid is presently completing a translation of her short stories into English, soon to be published by the American University in Cairo Press.
Year of the Elephant: A Moroccan Woman's Journey Toward Independence , University of Texas , 1990
Return to Childhood , Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas , 1999