This article questions the conventional wisdom that Ahlam Mosteghanemi’s Dhakirat al-jasad was the first Arabic-language novel written by an Algerian woman. Published more than a decade earlier, Zhor Wanisi’s novel Min yawmiyat mudarrisa hurra received less critical attention, despite representing an important contribution to Algerian literature and women’s life writing. Rather than accepting the “first” novel as an objective category, this article shows how the accolade has obscured works like Wanisi’s from Algerian literary history, reinforced gender and genre binaries, and subjected both authors to biased evaluation. The article draws on a corpus of book reviews, scholarly articles, and monographs to describe how Wanisi’s work was discounted as not a “true” novel, and the related process that brought Mosteghanemi to world fame. The trajectories of Wanisi and Mosteghanemi, placed side by side, suggest new avenues for our understanding of gender, literary genre, and the postcolonial dynamics of world literature.

You do not currently have access to this content.