Widad Tamimi is a half Italian and half Palestinian 30 years old debutant writer who recently published a novel with Mondadori.
Her book, Women’s coffee, is an attempt to go into her multicultural roots and explain in depth the different women’s condition in Western and East cultures. I read the book and I would like to advise it to you because it is well written and the author demonstrated sensitiveness and ability to convey strong emotions to the reader.This is my interview with her. Hope you like it!
Your identity seems to be the result of different cultures. Can you tell us more about your roots?
I was born in Milan, the daughter of a Palestinian refugee escaped from Hebron following the invasions of 1967 and an Italian-American woman, the daughter of a man from Trieste escaped from Nazi persecution. I grew up among different cultures, religions and scents. Now I live in Ljubljana, married to a Slovenian man, and I find it the best place to live. It is a small capital, which has experienced socialism and keeps old values alive, such as family and social equality. An ideal place to live does not exist, actually. I have planted my roots in my family and friends’ love. This is the most solid support, which I have found in my entire life.
How much of your life is in “Women’s Coffee’ novel?
The story is based on my personal experience: a traumatic miscarriage. I started to dig in my childhood memories to transform a huge loss into a growth. Most of the characters have begun to have a life of their own, but feelings, memories of lights and perfumes come from my memories of Amman (Jordan), the place where I used to spend my summer holidays during my childhood.
This is your debut as a writer. Tell us about this experience of artistic creation.
The love for writing began early, during elementary school. My teacher Paola was the first to encourage me to write. I attended the school newspaper, but in reality continued to write letters only, without actually cultivate a passion for writing. I became famous for my letters, but only in the family and not always and only positively. My family called the Widad’s papyri. They used to find them in unexpected places, for example under the pillow or near the shower in the morning. Now my only desire is to write novels.
Qamar’s coffee is just like Proust’s madelaine which Aunt Léonie gave to the young protagonist of “In Search of Lost Time’. Is it a kind of involuntary memory, isn’t it?
Yes, the cafe is able to bring Qamar irrational episodes and memories of the past. From espresso to the Arabic coffee, every swallow awakes and puts in action involuntary memory, which pushes her far away.
Women’s body. Unveiled and transfigured in the West, denied and covered in the East. It seems to be the pivotal role on which is built the novel’s plot.
I would say no. It is the personality of the protagonist, Qamar, that I tried to stress in depht. The novel is about women, living their femininity in different contexts far away from each other. On the one hand there are Western women, free to move and dress as they like, free to study and work. On the other hand there are women who live mainly in a familiar context without autonomy, women ‘covered’ by a veil. There are freedom’s limits in both cultures, for different reasons.But the bond between these two heteroclites worlds are women’s feelings and common experiences like loves, passions and motherhood.
The western cultural feminism as a movement has brought great achievements for women. What do you think of this movement? Do you think that has brought more advantages or disadvantages?
No doubt the Western culture won great achievements in the field of women’s rights, but I believe that every historical and social context should be analysed with different standards. The advantages in West culture are obviously huge, but you cannot think of ‘export’ an identical model in another social context. Every culture needs to mature its social rights.
‘Socialites’ and women covered with the Hijab. Apparently two cultures far away fro each other. Do you think they are two sides of the same coin?
The issue of veiled women is very complex because it is in many cases a personal choice and faith which must be respected. At the same time, in the pages of the book, I focused on the analysis of the female body in Western society and Middle East. In the West, the woman’s body is stripped and exploited, while in the Middle East is covered and hidden. In both cases, the woman’s body is not her property, but subjected to the wishes and practices of an entire society.
Beyond the rhetoric about peace, could you give us your opinion on the situation in the Gaza region?
Peace is possible, I believe, if human rights are considered equally valid for the entire human population. Last September Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked for political recognition of the Palestinian State, accepting the 1967 borders. His request was rejected and treated as an affront to the State of Israel. And I would like to understand the reason. If diplomatic and aggressive channels do not work, what does the international community want to do for Palestinian people?
Are you planning to translate and publish it in other languages?
I think it is too early … we will see.
Do you have plans for the future?
I have plans for the future, of course, but for a different topic. For a long time, I have thought about my family’s history and the incredible circle closed between the end of my grandfather’s exile and the beginning of my father’s one.