- Amal FarahAuthor–Egypt
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Born in 1968 into an artistic family of modest means, Amal Farah cites her mother's epic storytelling, her brother's paintings, and their family library as key influences on her growing up:
I come from Aswan, where the temple of Abu Simbel stands beneath the burning sun, the open sky, the widest Nile, and the date palms. I come from a land of beauty and art, where our women use colored strings to design caps for children and the men string verse like tumbling water in contests that confer reputation and confirm togetherness.
I was one of those whose fathers uprooted to Cairo, searching for a better life. Life would return in the summers when I was back in the village, around the campfire with cousins and aunts, sipping tea and telling stories of boats, adventures, and the jinn we believed could reach out with bony arms across the Nile banks to turn us into rabbits and goblins at will.
In 1990, armed with a BA in Arabic literature from Cairo University, Farah started her career in journalism, determined to write vehement prose on the issues that would stay with her for her entire life: social justice, culture as an essential right for all, and political participation.
Having gone from being a reporter to a journalist to a syndicated columnist in seven years, she began turning towards the poetry she grew up with and the nagging suspicion that the issues she fought for might be better served by giving children a rich childhood, full of words, thoughts, play, imagination, and dreams. Farah began songwriting and founded a children's supplement for a major newspaper, and moved fully into children's journalism. A year later, the great Egyptian artist Helmi El-Touni liked two of her short stories so much that he introduced her to Dar El-Shorouk publishing house, which published her first three stories to great critical and popular acclaim.
Today, forty children's books later, Farah's work is considered by many to have created a critical juncture in contemporary Egyptian children's literature. Her phrasing has the preciseness of an archer, while her imagination runs beastly wild, producing books that carry deep philosophical insights and invite revisiting at various ages. Her infectious love affair with the Arabic language is played out with artful reticence, in elegant playful prose with great verbal economy. Her writing is both narrative and non-narrative and often defies genre itself. She also resists age brackets for children's books, insisting, "I don't write for children, I write for childhood, a refuge for a lifetime."
Farah's work has received both national and international recognition, her civic engagement and professional generosity towards other writers endears her to those working in culture, and her opinions on books are sought as a respected juror on many Arab literature award committees. Since 2015, Farah has set up her own publishing house for children's books, Shagara Publishing, and has won the 2016 Best Children's Book of the Year from the Etisalat Award for Children's Literature. [End Page 18]