In the introduction to The Female Suffering Body the reader learns that “the sick female body still remains largely outside the Arabic literary imaginary” (2) and that there has been little Arab theorizing of the intersections of gender and health (11). What, then, is one to make of a literary study of ill and disabled female bodies? In spite of these two major limitations, Abir Hamdar has produced a richly detailed and engaging analysis of an assortment of short stories and novels published by fifteen authors since 1950. By situating each story in its particular social and cultural milieu, she historicizes the patterns of literal and symbolic representation of the ill female body and reconstructs “an aesthetic genealogy of representations of female physical illness and disability in Arabic literature from 1950 to the present” (125).

This clearly written...

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