‘Dates on My Fingers’: Exploring and Challenging Traditional Masculinities

Arabic Literature (in English)

Reviewer Alexandra Atiya found a challenge to received ideas of masculinity in Iraqi novelist Muhsin al-Ramli’s Dates on My Fingers (2014), translated by Luke Leafgren. Tomorrow, a Q&A about the novel between Atiya and al-Ramli: 

By Alexandra Atiya

downloadThe opening scenes of Dates on My Fingers shocked me. The 2008 novel by Muhsin al Ramli, now available in English translation by Luke Leafgren, starts with a bizarre act of sexualized violence.

The novel’s narrator, Saleem, tells a story from his childhood in Iraq. The story starts when Saleem’s sister falls ill and Saleem’s father takes the sister to the city of Tikrit for medical treatment. As they walk to the medical center, a car slows down beside them. The driver reaches out to grab the sister’s bottom. Saleem’s father reacts violently — he pulls the driver out of the car, leaving the driverless car to roll down the street, and strips the…

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