Namesake: Reflections on a Warrior Woman

Interlink. Jun. 2024. 288p. ISBN 9781623716875. pap. $20. SOC SCI
Nuseibeh reflects on her British and Palestinian heritage and family tree in this book that won the Giles St. Auburn Award as a work-in-progress. Nuseibeh’s ancestor and namesake is Nusayba Bint Ka’ab, a 7th-century warrior who was one of the first women to convert to Islam. She also fought alongside the Prophet Muhammad at the dawn of Islam. Nuseibeh taps into details about her ancestor’s feats, pioneering roles, and beliefs to explore societal concerns that illuminate commonalities between Palestinians and Westerners. Studying and writing about Nusayba Bint Ka’ab led to the author’s better understanding of how she views herself within her cultural backgrounds. In a series of linked essays (written before the start of the Israel-Palestine war that began in October 2023), many topics, including food, worry, motherhood, conversion, anger, feminism, language, violence, and common traditions, are covered. Nuseibeh dispels common stereotypes that many Westerners have about Palestinians, especially Palestinian women. She even includes fictionalized accounts of her namesake to illustrate how those same issues would have been relevant to her back then. The book also examines Islamic teachings on several subjects, albeit from the perspective of a non-religious scholar.
VERDICT A thoughtful, insightful, recommended collection of essays on Palestinian experiences that connects history with contemporary societies.
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