Madian Al Jazerah memoir is a tale of hope in a world of colliding identities. A must read!


Are you this? or are you this?: a story of identity and worth.

When Madian’s agent Lara from Hurst Publishers approached me in early April to provide a book blurb for this superb memoir of Madian, I felt honored. I knew Madian for a long time, and I consider him a good dear friend. I have always respected him and looked up to him for what he did for the gay community in Amman. To be chosen as one of the few people to provide a book blurb for his book meant a lot to me.

I was intrigued to know more about this great man and expected a good read, but once I started reading, I could’t stop. It was a draft version of the book that I read on my phone screen, and it hooked me till I finished it. It wasn’t only a good read but a great one.

Few days later I emailed Lara the blurb, which she thankfully edited to appear at the back cover of the book as:

This is the story of a great man, full of emotions, pride, dignity and determination. A tale of hope in a world of colliding identities; a must-read!’

Fadi Zaghmout, blogger and author of ‘The Bride of Amman’
Back cover of the book

These two lines of-course don’t do it justice, as it is much more than that. Madian takes us on an emotional journey of a man who is as delicate as a flower and as strong as a rock. A man who grew up in a world of colliding identities, carrying them over his shoulders, molding them into a beautiful mix, and riding them to turn every ugly incident he faces in his life into a colorful ray of light. Madian grew up as a Palestinian in Kuwait, a moderate Muslim in world that have seen Islam drift into extremism, and a gay man in a homophobic surrounding.

The combination of these three identity pillars might not be an exclusive identity to this man, but the way he handled it and lived it, is what makes his story gripping. There is an undeniable tone of pride in Madian’s words. He is a man of integrity and love, and his human side shows in every decision he takes along his life journey.

What makes this read enjoyable is that it is honest and intimate. Madian doesn’t shy from telling personal stories related to him, his family and his close friends. He talks about his life in Kuwait, and what meant for him to grow up in a country that he doesn’t hold its citizenship. How the security of his childhood home gets shattered when Iraq invades Kuwait, forcing him and his family to move to a different country. How he ends up living in a country where he holds its citizenship yet it is not the country of his origins. How he faced his own fears and came to terms with his sexuality. And how he navigated all this misfortune by holding onto the anchor of the loving family he has.

He might not have always made the best decisions, and at times, he let fear guide him, but he has also shown much talent, and it is here where we can see his utmost pride. Most of us know him from the haven he created in Amman – Books@cafe. The first internet cafe in the region that grew to be a hub for tolerance and acceptance. A place that shaped Amman in the past 20 years and empowered many of us to stand up and fight the exclusionary culture that tainted our lives.

Are you this? Or are you this?” might be the active expression his mother used when she asked him about his sexual preference. A reflection of how mainstream thinking in Jordan and around the world used to define what is an acceptable sexual behavior and what is not. But the title is more than that, and the story is more than that. It is the story of all of us, of how we tend to categories and place people into neat boxes to complete and perfect our views of the world around us. We feel comfort with simple stories, black and white ones that either accept people or reject them. We tend to ignore the complexity of the human condition and focus on one simple characteristic – are you this? or are you this?

The world is full of choices, and the nature of things are seldom binary. If you are to choose today, I’d advise you to choose to read this book. It is an emotional enjoyable read and there is much to learn from Madian and his life.

I wanted to be one of the first to review this book. Hope you enjoyed reading it.

The book is out for orders. You can order your copy now from publisher’s website directly by clicking here.

L’Epouse d’Amman is out in French!


Originally released in Arabic in 2012, “Arous Amman عروس عمّان“، was deemed controversial for it depiction of a main gay character and support of women’s sexual freedoms and body rights in Jordan. For me, it was a work of activism where I combined stories of people I know, events I witnessed, scenes I developed, and narratives I have discussed for years on this blog.

Best Seller Virgin Megastore Amman 2015

I was pretty much happy about its success, and overwhelmed with people’s reactions. From women calling me and thanking me for expressing their feelings, women who felt empowered after reading it, other women who endured same situation of different characters and gay men thanking me for helping them accepting their sexuality. It was like talking about the elephant in the room, everyone wanted to talk about “Arous Amman“, and they wanted others to read it. It was our story and it spread fast, getting sold out in few months, a second print release in October by Jabal Amman Publishers, and hitting the top 10 best sellers of Jamalon’s that year.

The book’s success wasn’t only local, and soon after, Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp was in a trip to Amman where she picked it up and loved it. She contacted me, asking me for permission to translate and excerpt to submit to Words Without Borders Magazine, which she did. I was happy with her translation and recommended her when I talked to Marshall Moore from Signal8Press who was interested in getting the book translated and published in English.

Gays the world bookshop London

The English translation of “The Bride of Amman” was released in 2015, and Ruth arranged for me a great launch schedule in the UK. She did a great job in marketing the book when it first came out, and contributed to its exposure and success big time. The book seen success in English as much as it did in its Arabic version, getting a wider audience and being added to the reading list of students in different universities around the world.

Like Ruth, Davide Knecht, read the book few years back and he approached me stating his interest in translating it to Italian. At the time he couldn’t secure an Italian publisher, but he was able to secure a French one – L’asiatheque. I was happy to sign with them, and after two years of work, the book is finally out in French as L’Epouse d’Amman. And like Ruth, Dave has been doing a great job in promoting the book. The publisher as well did a great job in getting the book out in an amazing shape, securing the rights for the a brilliant mural painted by the famous German artist Akut. A huge mural located in Downtown Amman, with a message to promote gender equality. Entitled “We are one“, a perfect match to L’Epouse d’Amman.

We are one mural – downtown Amman
Copies of L’Epouse d’Amman

Davide connected me with an Italian publisher too who was interested in the book last year but plans were put on hold due to Covid-19 situation. Other translators have approached me over the years to translate the book to German and Spanish, but nothing came out of it yet. I hope the release of the book in French would open the doors to other translations in the coming years.

The book has its way to success, and seems to have a magical appeal around it. I am so grateful for everyone contributed to its success.

Thank you.

7 years passed, still a best seller – Aroos Amman (The Bride of Amman)


Yesterday, an old time friend of mine, took a photo for “Aroos Amman” (The Bride of Amman” that shows the book in the best selling section of DNA Lifestyle Store in Al Abdali Mall.

I was happy to receive the photo and rushed to share it on all of my social media channels. The fact that “Aroos Amman” keeps on appearing in best selling lists after 7 years of its release, speaks volume. This is not the first time or place for it to be a best seller, in fact it was one of the top best selling books on Jamalon in 2012, the year it got released. It continuously appears in the best selling books section in the famous Jordanian bookstore “Reader”. It has been a best seller and a “recommended to read” at Virgin megastore for months. The audio version, made it to the most listened books list on storytel and the ebook is part of Abjjad’s all time most read books!

In Virgin Megastore Amman

The book been translated and published to English in 2015, and currently is getting translated into the French language, planned to be released next year.

Jamalon best selling list 2012

It has opened so many door to me, including securing an MA scholarship from the British Council to study in the UK in 2012. Invitation to different conferences and events in global cities from London, to Berlin, Salzburg and Pune

I have always wondered about the reason behind the success of this book. Why it ticks with so many people? It was my first to write, even before doing my MA in Creative Writing and Critical Thinking. It wasn’t perfectly crafted, and critics would point out the simplicity of its language or the shortages of the plot. Yet, it keeps generating strong reactions that surprises me till today, not just from my fellow Jordanians whom I mainly address in the book, but also from Arabs and foreigners from different countries.

For me it was a work of activism and I am more than happy to see it reach such heights. I wanted the voices of my characters to be heard, and they got heard. I wanted to give our youth hope, and for many I did. I remember a gay guy once told me that he keeps the book with him all the time, and place it next to his best when he goes to sleep as he feels protected by having it close by. That’s something I am so proud to hear. I remember a young woman once sending me a long letter stating how empowered she feels after reading the book and promising to stand up for her self and her rights. That’s also something I am so proud of. Even yesterday, after posting the photo of the book in the best selling list, I received a message from a guy who said it is his favorite book ever and that he remembers how he skipped his university classes and stayed home super excited to read it.

رواية عروس عمان بين الكتب الأكثر مبيعا في مكتبة ريدرز
Readers Bookshop

I don’t know what the magic in “Aroos Amman”. Maybe it has to do with giving a voice to a gay man that hasn’t been heard of in our society before, or hearing a Jordanian woman standing up to her body rights and sexuality, or maybe its magnifying our issues of gender and heavy social heritage, and showing how they have been affecting our lives negatively. I always say, I wrote it from my heart, and maybe that’s what made it tick. And I guess, thats what others see in it, like what a friend commented yesterday on the Instagram image, stating that it is successful because it is “honest” and “different”.

Thank you for all of the honest and different people who supported me and supported this book into such success. Hopefully we will seeing it reaching more people and maybe soon we will watch it as a movies on the big screens.. fingers crossed!

London launch for The Bride of Amman

The choice: A letter to my mother, and everyone else


A dear brave gay friend of mine came out to his mother two months ago. He wrote this touching letter and asked me to published it on my blog:

The choice: A letter to my mother, and everyone else.

You choose to be gay, and you can “unchoose” it.

Do we choose to cast disappointment on those we love the most?

Do we choose to rob ourselves from the look of love and pride our parents reserve for our siblings who marry their opposite sex?

Do we choose to worry about what the next door neighbours will think and if they’ll report us to the police?

Do we choose to uproot ourselves from everything we know and lived with, every single time a government cracks down on us and we seek refuge somewhere else, amongst foreigners who never saw us battle through our lives since our childhood?

Do we choose to not get married right now because the country we live in doesn’t recognize our union, and one of us has a passport that doesn’t allow us to rest our tired souls on its soil, unless we get married somewhere else, away from everyone that have witnessed our birth and childhood?

Do we choose to worry about, if one of us gets sick and needs rushing to the hospital, what story we’d come up with about the nature of our relationship to the nurse and doctors?

Do we choose to worry about the people who always see us together, grocery shopping, going to the gym, checking in at hotels and ordering a king size bed?

Do we choose to have to delete any of our endearing messages and photographs on our phone should we detained at the airport security offices, in fear that we’d be put in hal and deported?

Do we choose to turn our backs on those we thought love us without any boundaries, because all they us to be is like the rest?

Do we choose to run to every single grave we know, asking their inhabitants if indeed Hell is reserved for us?

We choose to live through it all, because at the end of the day, our love for each other, and for our own selves, is worth it. This is the choice we make. Every single second of every single day.

My Kali Interview, Celebrity of the week and Alef book club


Photo shoot My Kali Magazine

Photo shoot My Kali Magazine

It feels good to see the buzz of Arous Amman is still going through the country after more than two years of its debut. On thursday, I was hosted by Lama Zakharia for her radio show “Celebrity of the Week” on Beat FM. The interview was great, went super smooth with Lama being smart, spontaneous and professional as her audience know her. I am a big fan of her myself since I saw her performing last year in the Christmas’s musical of Dozan Awtar. I have also posted a while ago a video for her fighting sexual harassment by singing. She has an amazing voice and great talent. Watch out for her next projects. My interview will be aired next Thursday.

My interview with my kali magazine is published today after  much anticipation. These guys are really talented. We are blessed to have such artistic styled magazine in Jordan. The write-up is really good from the mutli-talented Mike Derderian. Mike is another one to admire, he is an artist who produces amazing illustrations, he is a brilliant writer and a great radio show host as well.  Along with the interview, my kali ran a stylised photo shoot for me. The photographs was taken by the wonderful Hiba Juda, make up by Amer Atta, hair by Ahmad Al Sa’ady, the making of video by Ala’a Abu Qasheh, and the cover/promo design by Atef Daglees. I feel so blessed to get to know all of these talented people. I also would like to dedicate a special thank you to Kali himself for putting the efforts into sustaining this magazine.

I like the smart headline of the interview “Here Comes the Groom!” in reference to me, the one behind the brides in Arous Amman.  And from the interview, I specially like these few lines:

Of course, don’t just take my word for it! It is a brilliant social commentary on an Arabian society filled with mothers, daughters and sisters; working women; married women; divorced women; women pursuing academia; sexually active women; and forlorn spinsters dreaming of the perfect Arab catch. Of course it also sheds light on the misogynistic Arab man; the oppressive father; the married man; the cheating husband; and the self-righteous cousin, who is looking for an excuse to burst the bubble of any of the over-achieving females in his tribe. The main controversy surrounding Aroos Amman most probably erupted from within the pages of the chapter in which a man thinks aloud after making love; making love to another man. I have to admit it was a shocking instance to read in a book written by an Arab Jordanian writer; almost as shocking as the rape scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, back in 1994.

I also had a very nice discussion around Arous Amman with Alef book club at the Good Bookshop. The discussion was complimented with a homosexuality debate. Before the debate started I had the chance to give a short presentation about gender and sexuality.  The issue was discussed openly from social, scientific and religious perspective. The event was organised very well and the crowd were respectful and polite. I was pretty much impressed by those youth (around 40 from both genders) discussing such matter openly and logically with full respect to each other opinion. At one point there was a veiled girl arguing against homosexuality talking closely to an openly gay man. Both were addressing their points of view genuinely with no sense of hatred towards each other. When the crowd were asked if they are with giving homosexuals their rights, most of them raised their hands in agreement! That’s something one doesn’t expect to happen in Jordan where a recent stat shows that 97% that society shouldn’t accept homosexuality! My Kali videoed the whole event, they should be posting it soon. I would also like to seize the chance and thank Tarek Abdo and Sanad Nowar for running this book club and organisation this event. That is courageous of them to tackle such issue.

Through Arous Amman I got to know about many book clubs in Jordan. I am happy to see these book clubs growing everywhere. I have to admit, Alef has just became one of my favourites. I wish them all the best.

One last good news, we are almost run out of copies of the 2nd edition of Arous Amman and will be working on a new print.

Tipping the Velvet: The axis of powers shaping Nancy’s gender identity


Gender is the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being.

Judith Butler – Gender Trouble

Tipping the Velvet

Tipping the Velvet

Sarah Walter’s lesbian romance novel ‘Tipping the Velvet’ takes us into an exhilarating journey of Nancy’s playful sexuality. It crosses the boundaries of the strictly heteronormative society of a Victorian England during the 1890s and shows the fluidity of gender in the context of different regulatory frames of desire, culture and class.

Walters divides the book into three major parts of Nancy’s life. Each part unfolds in a set of different events that helps shape Nancy’s fluctuated gender. She examines Nancy’s gender transformation against the powerful drive of desire, performativity, language, melancholia and class. In the first part she introduces Nancy to the world of male impersonators through the character of Kitty the performer, in the second part she examines the power of class in shaping gender expressions through the character of the rich woman Diana, and in the last part she places a matured Nancy into a world of philanthropy and social activism through the character of Florence.

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Salzburg Global Seminar: Advancing sexual expression and gender identity freedoms


Sex and the Citadel

Sex and the Citadel

I had a wonderful time in the past few days here at Salzburg Global Seminar, not just because of the lovely scenery of the Alps mountains or the beauty of the city of Salsburg but also because of the amount of people I got to know closely and connect with. People who came from all over the world (around 33 countries) to participate in a session that aims to set up a blue print for a more risiliant and healthy socieites of the future, societies that integrate within people with different forms of gender and sexual expressions without any prejudice, hatred, or violence.

The forum was pretty diverse and I am not talking here in terms of gender identities or sexual orientations only, but more about the diversity of the expertise and capacities of the participants; a large amount of successful professionals, political leaders, academics, activists, artists and media experts. One of the most impressive participants whom I grew to love and admire is the Egyptian author Shereen Al Feki. She presented her book “Sex and The Citadel” that sums up her five years of research about the contemporary sexuality of the Arab world. I realize that what she means by the “Citadel” is the institution of marriage and from what I heard about the book, it seems to carry the underline research to back up my observations of the Arab societies that I talk about in my book Aroos Amman (Amman’s Bride). It is all about the social obsession in marriage and how this institution is becoing harder and harder to achieve. Describing it as a “Citadel” is very smart and accurate indeed! I look forward to reading the book especially that she told me that she is interested in mentioning my novel in a potential update of her book (fingers crossed).

During the sessions, there been always this questions of identities and cultures and the validity of the acronym of LGBT in addressing the issues of sexual expressions and gender identities. I personally believe that such acronym is problematic  It is culturally biased in a way and restrictive and dividing in another. Those issues should go under the sexual expression and gender identities freedoms umbrella that is more inclusive in my opinion. For instance, I find no reason not to include the “W” in the Arab world, and here I am talking about women at large for they are more and more becoming to face a stronger aggression and hostility towards limiting and redefining their natural sexual expressions.

I would like to thank all of the staff at Salzburge Global Seminar for putting great efforts into organization such an important forum. The network built here is priceless and hopefully would help advancing human rights all over the world towards better societies for all of us. Thank you Klaus Muller (the chair organiser of the event)!

Last year, I participated in Stockholm Water Week and helped developing a young professional vision for the global food and water security and now I am helped coming up with a global statement to advance sexual expression and gender identity rights. It seems I am doing pretty well on the global front! Not bad at all. I guess that when you love the world, it loves you back 🙂

Jordan’s Psychiatrists between science, religion and social expectations!


I realize that many people in Jordan seek alternative medicine when modern medicine fails them either out of desperation or maybe believing a word of mouth or religious belief. They usually do so knowing that going to a “Sheikh” for a religious healing has nothing to do with science. The problem is, when it is the other way around. When you go to a psychiatrists and diagnose you out of religious and social beliefs, ignoring all of the scientific findings and recommendations that he/she built his/her credibility on.

This is clearly the case when it comes to homosexuals in Jordan where many of them seek a *professional* help in order to fight their same sex attraction for they reject it themselves usually out of religious and social reasons. The general stand of psychology today is that there is no proven therapy that can alter one’s sexual orientation safely and effectively. What psychiatrists can do in this case is try to lead their patients into accepting themselves and deal with their inner social and religious conflicts.

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