We Wrote in Symbols

We Wrote in Symbols

Love and Lust by Arab Women Writers

Edited by

9780863563973 April 2021 Paperback 320pp

About the Book

It is a little-known secret that Arabic literature has a long tradition of erotic writing. Behind that secret lies another – that many of the writers are women.

We Wrote in Symbols celebrates the works of 75 of these female writers of Arab heritage who articulate love and lust with artistry and skill. Here, a wedding night takes an unexpected turn beneath a canopy of stars; a woman on the run meets her match in a flirtatious encounter at Dubai Airport; and a carnal awakening occurs in a Palestinian refugee camp. From a masked rendezvous in a circus, to meetings in underground bars and unmade beds, there is no such thing as a typical sexual encounter, as this electrifying anthology shows.

Powerfully conveying the complexities and intrigues of desire, We Wrote in Symbols invites you to share these characters’ wildest fantasies and most intimate moments.

About the Contributors

Selma Dabbagh is a British Palestinian writer of fiction whose debut novel Out of It (Bloomsbury) was a Guardian Book of the Year. Dabbagh’s BBC R4 play The Brick was nominated for the Imison Award, and her writing has been published in Granta and Wasafiri, and translated into several languages.


‘Fierce, captivating, revolutionary. A dazzling collection.’
Elif Shafak

‘These voices are furious, witty, outrageous, tender and entranced. This collection offers much delightful entertainment and fresh perspectives on women and sex in the Middle East.’
Marina Warner

‘An explosive and powerful new collection ... a fantastic, liberating book ... incredibly empowering and life-affirming ... I highly recommend it.’
Ayesha Hazarika, Times Radio

‘In We Wrote in Symbols, Selma Dabbagh … elevates self-assertive voices and banishes long-held silences on matters such as same-sex desire and masturbation … Daring. Electrifying.’

‘A fascinating collection … eye-opening in its scope and styles, and rewarding in its daring and novelty … as fun and accessible as it is successful in challenging preconceived notions of sexuality in the literary output of Arab women authors ... a revelation.’
Erotic Review

‘Ground-breaking … the first collection of its kind in English … What We Wrote in Symbols captures most strongly is the richness and depth of erotic writing in the Arabic literary tradition, and the incredible diversity and range of its female voices. If this eye-opening collection also helps shatter some assumptions about gender and sexuality in the Arab world, it is all the more welcome.’
Washington Post