restricted access Shahrazadian Gestures in Arab Women’s Autobiographies: Political History, Personal Memory, and Oral, Matrilineal Narratives in the Works of Nawal El Saadawi and Leila Ahmed

This article examines two autobiographical works by Egyptian women, A Daughter of Isis by Nawal El Saadawi and A Border Passage: From Cairo to America—A Woman’s Journey by Leila Ahmed. In both works, the writers’ attempts to construct their identities through personal memory in autobiographical form entail a concurrent reexamination of the political history of their home societies and a feminist, postcolonial revision of Western and Middle Eastern understandings of those societies. At the same time, each writer, in her own way, inscribes a matrilineal oral heritage within the textual tradition of autobiography and creatively asserts her own identity within a transnational, historical context. This article explores the ways in which political history, autobiographical tradition, oral heritage, and the transnational reception of postcolonial texts all play a part in the construction of identity in the life narratives written by Nawal El Saadawi and Leila Ahmed.