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Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands (Paperback)

Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands By Sonia Nimir, Marcia Lynx Qualey (Translated by) Cover Image
By Sonia Nimir, Marcia Lynx Qualey (Translated by)
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Sonia Nimr’s award-winning Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands is a richly imagined feminist-fable-plus-historical-novel that tells an episodic travel narrative, like that of the great 14th century Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta, through the eyes of a clever and irrepressible young Palestinian woman.

The story begins hundreds of years ago, when our hero—Qamar—is born as an outcast, at the foot of a mountain in Palestine, near her father’s strange, isolated village. Qamar’s mother must solve the mystery of why only boys are born in this odd, conservative village. Then, in 1001 Nights style, this tale moves into another. Qamar’s parents die and a prince with many wives wants to marry her. Qamar takes her favorite book, Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands, and flees through Gaza, to Egypt, where she is captured, enslaved, and sold to the sister of the mad king in Egypt. After escaping, she flees to study with a polymath in Morocco. But when it’s discovered she’s a girl, she must leave again, disguising herself as a boy pirate to sail the Mediterranean. Through all her fast-paced battles, mysteries, and adventures, Qamar never finds a home, but she does manage to create a family.

About the Author

Sonia Nimr is a leading Palestinian author and storyteller who weaves together contemporary stories with folklore for readers of all ages. She won the prestigious 2014 Etisalat Award, and was also shortlisted for the prize for Thunderbird, the first title in a fantasy trilogy. She is also the author of two books in English: Ghaddar the Ghoul and Other Palestinian Stories and A Little Piece of Ground (co-written with Elizabeth Laird).

MARCIA LYNX QUALEY is a writer and editor who founded ArabLit and ArabLit Quarterly. She cohosts the BULAQ podcast and has co-translated the co-written Ghady & Rawan (2019).

Praise For…

“Palestinian author Nimr spins an elegant fable of literacy, romance, and derring-do … Nimr’s story is both fabulous and utterly matter-of-fact, and, notably, at every turn women are the leaders and the shapers of their worlds. The writing is lovely … Small in size but epic in scope: a delightful, profoundly meaningful adventure.”

“This spellbinding work from Nimr (A Little Piece of Ground) follows the adventures of Qamar, a young Palestinian woman. After Qamar is born in an unnamed, premodern village where only male children have been born for 50 years, her family is shunned. Despite this, she is raised in a loving home, and she becomes a voracious reader with an unquenchable desire for exploration. When Qamar is 15, her parents die, leaving her to set off on the first of many adventures. Qamar walks to Jerusalem and joins a caravan traveling to Egypt, where she is caught and sold as a slave. She eventually becomes the slave of, and then trusted adviser to, Princess Noor al-Huda. But when Noor is targeted in an assassination plot, Qamar escapes to Tangier. There, she learns from a renowned scholar, falls in love with a pirate captain, and disguises herself as a man in order to sail with him and his marauding crew. Qamar’s myriad journeys, while often outlandish, are moving and maintain the energy of the epic tales she read as a child. Nimr’s rip-roaring feminist folktale combines legend and history to great effect.”

“In this picaresque novel reminiscent of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders, each chapter follows Qamar on a self-contained adventure … English-language readers need more multicultural literature that isn't filtered through the lens of immigration, acculturation, Americanization, and this book delivers. VERDICT This nuanced work steeped in Islamic culture fills a gap in English-language literature. Readers who are unfamiliar with Arabic fiction will find their perspectives broadened.”

"This is, first and foremost, a great story – one that has the power to draw in readers of any age. It is one of those that reaches across time, space and cultural barriers to take us to the heart of the human experience. By enabling us to escape, it brings us to the source of what we are. Pure magic."

"This whirlwind adventure... is an imaginative story of one woman’s resilience written from a feminist Palestinian perspective... I applaud the translator."

"Qualey is also a force to be reckoned with, one with impeccable taste. She’s got the expertise of 10 PhDs (which she will never admit to) and taste unshaped by market forces: her choice of Wondrous Journeys proves she pitched the text for translation because she liked it and recognized it was an example of literary greatness. But I also suspect Qualey pitched the text for translation because she understood how having such a text in the cultural ether would be important. Palestinian narratives need to be diverse in order to be powerful. The portrayal of the contemporary Arab world as in peril doesn’t cut it anymore. Having translated children’s literature before (with Sawad Hussain, producing Ghady and Rawan in 2019), Qualey can see where lines of empathy can be drawn across children’s audiences; we’re lucky she is shaping the field of Arabic literature in translation and will be for years to come. Wondrous Journeys has layers of politics to it, namely in that it helps us understand Nimr’s audience: what they need out of literature and a healthy literary world."

"The kind of classic adventure tale I couldn't get enough of as a child and I would have adored that this one centres on a woman's expeditions. I still adore that about it now!"

"If you enjoy Arabian Nights-style story-telling, you will love this book... Sonia Nimr and translator Marcia Qualey have done an excellent job of making these tales highly readable for an English-speaking audience while, at the same time, preserving the mysteries of the Arab world for us. I love a good story and if you do too, you will love this book."

“Sonia Nimr, a leading Palestinian author and storyteller, weaves together a richly imagined tale creating stories within stories, inspired by the famous travel narratives of the fourteenth-century Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta … Nimr’s powerful and evocative narrative is a mix of historical, traditional tales, in the ilk of 1001 Arabian Nights, and a feminist perspective that is tinged with humor as well as love and loss. Qamar’s many adventures are full of detail, color and vibrancy giving a flavor of different cultures and places making this novel so engaging and enjoyable to read … It is a refreshing story because it moves away from often perceived stereotypes of the Middle East …The prose is exquisite, which is a testament to the excellent translation from Marcia Lynx Qualey …”

Winner of the 2021 Palestine Book Awards, Translation Award
Product Details
ISBN: 9781623718664
ISBN-10: 162371866X
Publisher: Interlink Books
Publication Date: December 4th, 2020
Pages: 224
Language: English