Review: Women, Water and Memory by Nefissa Naguib
Title: Women, Water and Memory: Recasting Lives in Palestine
Author: Naguib, Nefissa
Length: 176 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction, Women, Culture
Publisher / Year: American University in Cairo Press / 2009
Source: Borrowed from Carina, who bought it while we were on vacation in Egypt.
Why I Read It: I was out of reading material, so of course started working through Carina‘s. Plus it sounded really interesting.
Date Read: 02/04/12
What does water mean to our lives? It’s hard to imagine any part of our lives without water, although we may never consciously think about it. Naguib, and anthropologist, spent much time in a small West Bank village she names Musharafah beginning in the 1990s. During her time in the village, she talked with the women, interviewing them and following them through their lives, discussing water and memory and the importance of water to them.
What Naguib finds is that water, to these women, meant not only chores of collecting water from the wells but also meant and made up a large part of their ‘adat and taqalid (customs and traditions). The introduction of piped water, to these women, completely changed their lives but not always in a good way. While it cut down their chores, it also changed the layout of the village, the importance of relatives living away to remit monies home, and the ways in which women lived their lives. Previously, they could have more control over their lives and activities, having more freedom to move around and take breaks that can now be more easily denied.
In this book Naguib makes a point to let the women tell their own stories. She discusses the importance of giving people their own voice to tell their stories so as not to ‘other’ them, and she includes in the book a number of sections by different women. Through these sections the women share their memories of the water in their village, and by doing so they share the history and culture of their small communities, as well as their joys and hardships. Through the stories we get an image of life in the community through the years, including the Intifada and occupation. We see a history of Palestine along with a history of a village through the eyes of the women who live it.
A really interesting read that examines a basic necessity of life in such a way as to capture all aspects of village life and tradition through the eyes of the women who live it. It gives a history that won’t be easily found in the standard narratives or textbooks, especially as it points out the flaws of the ‘modern’ piped water that most other accounts will name only a full success. If you like reading about real life and the complexities of it, do give this book a read.