At exactly 21:15 Beijing time on March 21, 2021, my PhD adviser, Professor Xue of Beijing Foreign Studies University, sent me a text message that Nawal El Saadawi had died. Several other scholars sent their condolences. Why me? I thought. It was because I had written the first PhD dissertation in China on Nawal’s works; I was the first Chinese reader to knock on the door of her Cairo apartment; and I had planned her 2014 tour of Beijing.

In the early 2010s, my choice of Nawal El Saadawi as a dissertation topic raised eyebrows. Some senior scholars deplored my choice, because they saw in Nawal an attention seeker playing to the gallery. Others were genuinely concerned, sensing that this inexperienced student might suffer consequences if she dived into such controversy. I had my own reasons. I had always been skeptical of what was canonical, and my skepticism often turned...

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