Week 8- “Do you prefer oranges or tangerines?”

“I’m not saying that fiction has the magnitude of an earthquake, but when we’re reading a good novel we leave our small and cozy apartment behind, go out into the night alone and start getting to know people we have never met before”

I enjoyed listening to Elif Shafak’s TED talk “The Politics of Fiction.” I don’t believe I’ve ever really thought about the expectations foreign writers faced. I never connected the pressure they must feel to deliver something they don’t even know is expected. Shafak made so many wonderful points in her talk, but there were certain parts that really made me stop, catch my breath, think, and then accept; fiction does indeed transport us out of our comfort zone and into a world we’d never thought to experience before. It gifts us the experience of the unknown and the free.  Shakaf says in her talk that “There’s a gap between the mind and the tongue” and I don’t know about you, but I have dedicated the majority of my educational career learning to build a bride to skip on between that gap. And I have only gotten as far as I have because I have had the pleasure of being taught be radical thinkers. Those that didn’t tell me what to think or how to get there, but showed me the raw and gritty reality of things with a simple “Now go out and understand it.” Something Shafak touches on in her talk as well.



Reading is important. It is our gateway into our own personal “other” that which we do not know or yet understand. I mean, really, what would Harry have done?


Politically and historically, in the entirety of the history of woman, an educated -well read- woman is a dangerous, if not murdered woman. The story of Malala Yousafzai is one I’ve always trembled at. Not with fear, not with a sense of “Oh little girl, why didn’t you just stay silent”, but with anger. Why wasn’t she protected? Why isn’t her death more of an outcry? Is the murder of children such a norm? it’s sickening that our world is so distorted that a child’s voice caused so much of a stir to inspire such malicious actions. But what does that say about our future as a woman? Malala isn’t just a “global icon” she, her story, should be a global tragedy.

Woman At Point Zero

“Let me speak. Do not interrupt me. I have no time to listen to you,” (Saadawi 9). Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi didn’t inspire sadness in me, at least not a deep one. I do feel saddened by the circumstances of Firdaus’s life. I didn’t see Firdaus’s story as “depressing” either. What I did feel was sympathy and joy. A woman oppressed that escaped her horrors each time, lived as she pleased, and dies by her own accord. That is strength. That is a fanciful reality.

What is Firdaus’s reality? She has cracked some sort of a code. A code which makes her a force, something to fear, something to be stopped, or in the books case, executed.

“Her voice was now silent, but its echo remained in my ears, like a faint distant sound. Like the voices one hears in a dream” (Saadawi 113) but her lessons aren’t in her death, but in herself made ability to choose…” I felt ashamed of myself, of my life, or my fears, and my lies. The streets were full of people bustling around, of newspapers hanging on wooden stalls, their headlines crying out. At every step, wherever I went, I could see the lies, could follow hypocrisy bustling around. I rammed my foot down on the accelerator as though in a hurry to run over the world, to stamp it all out. But the next moment I quickly lifted my foot and braked hard, and the car came to a halt. And at that moment I realized that Firdaus had more courage than I” (Saadawi 114). The courage that Firdaus displayed, is courage many of us as women lack, including myself.

She lived and died by her choice.

Firdaus knew what she was fighting for. Do many?  In her interview for The American Prospect by Garance Franke-Ruta Saadawi says that she “is also trying to warn Egyptian women that the Westernized mores they are adopting may be no more liberating than the traditions they are leaving behind. She decries makeup as a “post-modern veil,” which leaves women just as focused on male ideas of female self-presentation as the head scarves Muslim women wear.”

Do we actively exercise the choices we may take for granted?





  1. I had similar reactions to the Ted talk. I felt she raised a lot of good points–I can always count on a good book to transport me to a new environment or situation. That’s the beauty of reading. It allows us to break from our comfort zone.
    I find your discussion of Firdaus interesting. I like that you see her actions as those of power and choice. This was my second time reading Woman at Point Zero, and again, I am reminded of how inspiring and strong Firdaus is. I think Firdaus is a symbol of hope, a hopeful break against the oppression.
    I also like where you stated, “What is Firdaus’s reality? She has cracked some sort of a code. A code which makes her a force, something to fear, something to be stopped, or in the books case, executed.” I thought this was well put. Firdaus figures out how to be her own person; she strips herself of the constructs of society, gender, religion. She lives and does what she pleases and, ultimately, she no longer possess fear for anything, even death. That in itself is remarkable. She becomes completely fearless.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed the point you brought up about how Malala was such a threat, even as such a young girl. It’s really interesting to see how she, just like Firdaus, through her “subversiveness” managed to, in some way, disrupt the patriarchy. Like Dr. Clemens had said in her post for this week, no matter even if it the act comes from a 14-year-old girl the forces in power still pay attention. Anything that even attempts to question the grounds upon which they shape their authority is threatening, and that is actually kind of entertaining.

    The sole fact that the patriarchal force exists is not entertaining, but that it is so easily threatened, maybe even calling its actual power into question.

    Liked by 1 person

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