I’ve come across a very lively publisher of Arabic, Farsi and Turkish translations to English, histories of the region, biographies, cookbooks [The Axis of Evil Cookbook!], with a strong emphasis on women, writers and written about.  Saqi Books has offices in San Francisco and London as well as Beirut.

I’ve read Nawal el-Sadaawi’s Two Women in One, and am in the middle of The Devil You Don’t Know, an Iraqi memoir, journalistic reflection of returning to Iraq by Zuhair al-Jezairy.  I recommend them both.

AFSANEH: Short Stories by Iranian Women looks particularly intriguing.

“Whether negotiating often-treacherous paths through political and religious upheavals or threading their way through dreams and fantasies, the characters in these stories are vivid and compelling enough to challenge and surprise anyone unfamiliar with Iranian life and literature. Simin Daneshvar, perhaps the most renowned Iranian woman writer of all time, has as a recurring theme in her stories the oppressive atmosphere prevailing in Iran during the last two decades before the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Goli Taraqqi’s stories are populated with sick, desperate people who lead lonely lives suffused with fear. The Shemiran Bus and A House in Heaven are virtuoso works of hers, and probably two of the best examples of contemporary prose in Iran. In the words of one critic: ‘If Taraqqi had not written anything but these stories, she would still be regarded as first-rate amongst Iranian writers.’ Others include Shahrnoosh Parsipour, Moniroo Ravanipour, Mahshid Amirshahi, Fereshteh Sari, and Fereshteh Molavi.”

As does Sufism and Surrealism, by the well known Syrian-Lebanese poet, Adonis.

Save a space in your summer reading for at least one writer from the mysterious Middle– neither East nor West but the heart of the great caravan routes from Acre to Cairo, Istanbul to Samerkand.  Learning more about water on the moon is fine.  We also need to learn about lives in the lands we so easily ignore.