Celebrated each year on March 8, International Women’s Day recognizes the cultural, scientific, economic, and political achievements made by women while also acknowledging the work that still must be done to increase gender parity. In honor of this day, QAIC sat down with acclaimed Lebanese author, Wafa’ Tarnowska, to discuss her most recent book, Amazing Women of the Middle East: 25 Stories from Ancient Times to Present Day. In this beautifully illustrated collection of stories about the lives and legacies of 25 female figures from the region, Tarnowska fuses history and female empowerment.
Tarnowska, now based in the United Kingdom, is a third-generation storyteller. As a young child growing up in Lebanon, her grandmother would recount classic Middle Eastern tales. Inspired by these stories, Tarnowska dreamed of becoming a writer and storyteller herself. First, she worked as a radio broadcaster in Australia before publishing her first children’s book, Dances with the Gods, in 1997. Tarnowska would publish four more children’s books based on traditional Middle Eastern stories.
Amazing Women of the Middle East is a departure from Tarnowska’s previous fictional works – a nonfiction book, it profiles historical and contemporary Middle Eastern women who have made strides in their respective fields. From ancient leaders, such as Cleopatra, to modern trailblazers, like Amal Clooney, these women serve as important role models for young girls today. In discussing the inspiration behind this book, Tarnowska explains that many of the featured women were her role models growing up. However, she found that although these women are prominent figures within the region, they are often unknown by Western audiences. Rather, Western stereotypes tend to portray Middle Eastern women as “oppressed” or as “seductresses,” says Tarnowska. Through Amazing Women of the Middle East, she hopes to challenge these misconceptions and demonstrate how empowered women have lived and worked in the region for millennia.
Commemorating International Women’s Day: A Conversation with Wafa’ Tarnowska
Check out the video above for an exclusive look into the inspiration behind this book, Tarnowska’s creative process, and her advice to aspiring authors and storytellers. To learn more about Tarnowska and her work, visit her website. You can also purchase a copy of Amazing Women of the Middle East here.