Notes on the Flesh / Book Review

Kuwaiti writer Shahd Alshammari's collection of short stories Notes on the Flesh is a raw and brave exploration of Middle Eastern life reviews writer Hananah Zaheer

Image: Supplied

By Hananah Zaheer

Culture 27 May 2018

Shahd Alshammari’s short story collection Notes on the Flesh is a sharp, raw and brave exploration of the rhythms of the Middle Eastern life.  Interweaving stories about the war and the personal, she lays bare the vulnerability and the strength of the body, the female body especially, and focuses on it both as a prize and a limitation.

At times a memoir, at other times fiction, this collection is a telling of the imposition of identity, the conflict of cultures—between a person and their society—and physical limitations that form nearly physical barriers between people.

AlShammari handles themes as big as love, loss and pain in these stories. From women struggling against motherhood, lovers and their own selves to men who are bound by the limitations of their worlds, the collection provides access not just to AlShammari’s native culture but also is a universal comment on the culture of pain, or what happens when the individual struggles to adapt, when the body fails.

AlShammari builds the myth of creation by questioning the very things that most of us lean toward to define ourselves: is it our parents, our society, our experiences or us which makeup the circle which, in this collection, represents possibility? Perhaps all, perhaps some, perhaps none. But somewhere between the notion of the body’s possession as the ultimate prize and love’s occasional failure, the stories lay bare the shock of physicality as relates to the culture of this world. “My hand must have instilled a shocking sensation in her, before even touching hers. She gawked in astonishment at my hand – it was as though I had unknowingly insulted her.” (AlShamari 29)

A brave voice that lifts the veil on disability culture, and much else, in the Middle East AlShammari’s short stories are a portrait of a war being lost even now, an apt counterpart to the rising of women’s movements across the world.

Hananah Zaheer lives, writes and improvises (life and theatre) in Dubai. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and a novel. You can follow her on Twitter on: @hananahzaheer or view her work on: www.hananahzaheer.com
Hello and Hala . . .
The Arab Edition is a space that belongs to all of us who want to own and change the narrative. It’s where bridges are built through stories and shared experiences. Do you want to be a bridge builder? Do you want to join in the conversation? Do have something to say? A story to share? We bet that you do.
If you’re a content maker of any kind (writer, artist, photographer, film maker, YouTuber, blogger) or simply someone with something to say, an opinion worth sharing or have a story you want to tell one of our editors or writers then we want to hear from you. Head over to About Us and find out what we are looking for then fill out the form in Contact Us.
Now is the time to celebrate and share our stories, history, traditions, successes and opinions no matter where we are from. The Arab Edition is waiting for you to help us build that bridge of stories.
Comment Policy:
The Arab Edition encourages discourse and discussions on all our articles. This is a space where you should feel free to express your thoughts and opinions in order to continue the conversation. However, discussions can get heated. While passion is great we encourage you to be kind to one another and be thoughtful of the words and terms you use when addressing each other.
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons