A book of history, heritage, loyalty, religion, feminism, families, and the Armenian genocide
The Book of Queens is a family saga that spans four generations of women caught up in the tragic whirlwind of turf wars and suffering in the Middle East—from the Armenian genocide and the Israeli occupation of Palestine to modern-day civil wars and the struggles between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon and Syria.
Four queens of a deck of cards dealt a bad hand by fate—Qayah, Qana, Qadar and Qamar—form the branches of the same family tree rooted in the land of their origins despite the forceful winds that repeatedly try to carry them away. A line of red-haired women united by the ties of blood that runs through their veins—which violence has spread through the ages—each with a deep story and all with one thing in common: unwavering power and resilience in the face of adversities of being a woman in a war-torn region.
With the perfect mastery of finely chiseled writing, Joumana Haddad manages to construct a novel of extraordinary intensity, without ever sinking into pathos or grandiloquence. She also challenges the systematic abuse of political and religious power and authority that continues to cloud the lives of a culturally diverse and progressive youth until the present day.
Joumana Haddad is an award-winning Lebanese author, journalist, and human rights activist. She was the cultural editor of An-Nahar newspaper for many years and now hosts a TV show focusing on human rights issues in the Arab world. She has received the Blue Metropolis Arab Literary Prize and the Arab Press Prize, among other honors, and was named one of the world’s 100 most powerful Arab women for four years in a row by Arabian Business magazine. Her works, which have been widely translated and published around the world, include I Killed Scheherazade, Superman is an Arab, and The Third Sex. The Book of Queens, her latest novel, has been translated into French, Italian, and Arabic.
“Haddad’s The Book of Queens packs in a century of Levantine cataclysms … [It] includes within its scope the Armenian genocide, the Palestinian Nakba, the Lebanese Civil War, Lebanon’s intifada against Syrian ‘tutelage’—as it is termed in Arabic—and Syria’s (unrelated) descent into civil war … [T]he convergence of the novel’s protagonists and historical paroxysms of violence is explosive and often makes storytelling both suspenseful and emotionally affecting. That all the protagonists are female enhances these qualities because in this story, as in life, when people are caught up in war or oppressed due to their national/ ethnic/ religious identity, the women and girls among them endure the same outrages as their male counterparts—and then some. But they fight back. And Haddad, long known for her feminism, is keen to demonstrate the suffering, stoicism, and resistance of Qayah, Qana, Qadar, and Qamar … [A] laudable and often a poignant channeling of several violent and disruptive historical events into the trajectory of a single Armenian-Arab family. It is a family in which each generation produces at least one headstrong girl-cum-woman, the kind who tries valiantly to lodge a splint in the maw of this genocide or that Nakba or the other civil war intent on devouring her and her loved ones.”
“From award-winning author and journalist, Joumana Haddad, comes a story overflowing with history, identity and conflict in The Book of Queens … Haddad does not shy away from the devastating consequences of political and religious violence. She allows readers an intimate look into a family who has been forced to flee for over a century, vehemently refusing to be victims that politicians around the region want them to be. Haddad’s novel is haunting but historically rich with characters who do not cower in the face of adversity.”