National or ethnic collectivities are often coded in art, propaganda, and other media as “female”—passive, possessed, and penetrable by the enemy other. Particularly during times of conflict, the nation or homeland is depicted as a woman whose purity must be protected by men. Feminist explorations of this phenomenon have often focused on the language and practice of sexual violence against women in war. Mary Layoun’s discussion of Cypriot fiction raises a different possibility: when women transgress group boundaries and make their own choice to pursue sexual relationships with the other, this rupture of dominant ideologies opens up new ways of thinking about identity but may also end with those disruptions being suppressed and crushed. This article uses Layoun’s ideas to inform a close reading of two recent novels written in Arabic, both of which depict Muslim-Jewish amatory relations in a way that counters stereotypical ideas about how such relationships are seen in the Arab world.

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