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I Am You (Ana Hiya Anti): A Novel on Lesbian Desire in the Middle East by Elha ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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I Am You (<i>Ana Hiya Anti</i>):

Introduction

First published in Arabic in the year 2000 and set in late 1980s Beirut, I Am You (Ana Hiya Anti) was Elham Mansour’s third published novel and is perhaps her most remarkable work to date. Derided by Lebanese critics for its “poor literary quality” and its “immoral” premise that homosexuality is a natural fact of human relations,1 I Am You is a groundbreaking work the likes of which we are yet to see repeated in the Arab literary world.

While representations of male homosexual relations are rife in the Arabic literary tradition, dating as far back as the ninth century, where they flourished during the Abbasid Golden Age, representations of female homosexual relations are far and few between. And while, in the twentieth century, the works of novelists such as Yusuf Idris and Naguib Mahfouz have not shied away from depicting male homosexualities, and with Thani al-Suwayddie’s poetic novella al-Diesel2 depicting an effeminate homosexual in the interesting narrative voice of the first person, there is virtually no representations of female homosexualities in modern Arabic literature.