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Women Writers of the Modern Middle East

This unit is focused on women writers of the Modern Middle East, and is meant to be implemented in ninth grade English classes. The Middle East is home to many wonderful writers; however, it is challenging to find women writers whose works have been translated effectively. I have included Esther Raab, who was born in Ottoman Palestine and is considered the first female native-born Israeli poet. She has a book of poems in translation, called Thistles, and other poems and stories have been translated in isolation. A fascinating parallel to the Israeli poet, Fadwa Tuqan is a Palestinian poet who writes movingly of the same homeland as Esther Raab. These two writers, studied together, will help students to understand the complicated history and politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The activities I have chosen to create are quite diverse and will help high school students better understand the diversity of landscapes and cultures that make up the region known as the Middle East. Students will then be able to make connections between these faraway places and the places they think of as home. We will also be analyzing a short story, “Rose Jam” by Esther Raab, in terms of the way it describes not just the author’s homeland but also its problematic and troubling presentation of Arab men. This story provides a base for a dialogue about stereotypes, gender roles, and what happens when cultures collide and overlap.

Overall, several skills and concepts are targeted in the classroom activities included in this unit, all with the aim of increasing literacy, promoting discussion, expanding cultural horizons, and stimulating creativity. I hope that after completing these activities, students will have a greater appreciation for the different landscapes of the world, how they are reflected in language, and the implications of gender in language. As an added bonus, because engaging classroom activities and good instruction are the best test preparation, students will also be better prepared for the PSSA or Keystone Examinations as a result of completing these activities.

Elisabeth Raab Yucis
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