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Infusing the personal into the political (or vice-versa), Soueif dances through the minefield of contemporary "Arab" identity in this remarkable collection of essays written over the past 20-plus years. She applies the same deftly descriptive style as her fiction work to these pieces, and whether she's wondering if, "to be good for" her "smart and funny and open and warm" American friends, "America has to be bad for the rest of us," or brilliantly (and hilariously) dissecting a book by Amitav Ghosh, Soueif's insight and incisiveness is stunning. In this wide variety of texts – some ruminations, some reviews, some researched pieces – Soueif is more than willing to wax nostalgic about her past and romantic about her identity. But what's most engaging is how she's also capable of speaking truths about what it's like to be Arab in a world that's increasingly uninformed and largely hostile.

Mezzaterra: Fragments From the Common Ground
By Ahdaf Soueif
(Anchor, 352 pages)

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