Daughter of Damascus, by Siham Tergeman, presents a personal account of a Syrian woman’s youth in the Suq Saruja (“old city”) quarter of Damascus in the 1940s. Siham Tergeman wrote this book to preserve the details of a “genuine Arab past” for Syrian young people. In it, she relates the customs pertaining to marriage, birth, circumcision, and death. She writes of Ramadan festivities, family picnics to the orchards of the Ghuta, weekly trips to the public bath, her school experiences, Damascene cooking, peddlers’ calls, and proverbs. She includes the well-known dramatic skits, songs, and tales of the Syrian Hakawati storytellers. And, through the words of her father, she describes the difficult period when Syrians were involved in the Balkans War and World War I. All this wealth of ethnographic detail is set in real-life vignettes that make the book lively and entertaining reading.
Little has been published about modern Syrian social life. In this English translation of an Arabic memoir originally published in Syria in 1978, Tergeman appeals to a wide audience. General readers will find a charming story, while scholars can find source material for university courses in anthropology, sociology, family and women’s studies, and Middle Eastern area studies. The introduction by anthropologist Andrea Rugh portrays Syrian social life for Western readers and points out some of the nuances that might escape the attention of those unacquainted with Arab culture.
About the Author
Siham Tergeman received her doctorate from Damascus University in 1955. She currently resides in Damascus, Syria.
About the Translator
Andrea Rugh is currently a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.
She has been a technical advisor for USAID development projects in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. She was a Research Associate at the Harvard Institute of International Development from 1987 to 1994, and worked for Save the Children and UNICEF in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1998 to 2002. Over a period of 40 years residence and work in the Middle East, she has written on local culture and society. Her books include Family in Contemporary Egypt (Syracuse University Press, 1984), Reveal and Conceal: Dress in Egypt (Syracuse University Press, 1986), Within the Circle: Parents and Children in an Arab Village (Columbia University Press, 1997), and two translated books: Daughter of Damascus (Siham Tergeman, University of Texas Press, 1994), Folktales of Syria (Samir Tahhan, University of Texas Press, 2004). Her latest books are The Political Culture of Leadership in the United Arab Emirates (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), Simple Gestures: A Cultural Journey Into the Middle East (Potomac Books 2009), a memoir of living and working in the Middle East and International Development in Practice: Education Assistance in Egypt, Pakistan, and Afghanistan (Palgrave-Macmillan 2012).
Book Club Information
Date: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 6:15 pm
Location: Multnomah County Library Central Library, U.S. Bank Room, 810 SW 10th Avenue
Speaker: Andrea Rugh, translator and Middle East Institute scholar