A new review and 5 stars for LAILA!


Happy to receive this new review for Laila today on goodreads by Lana Swaiss.

A review for LAILA on Goodreads

Another provocative book by Fadi!


After reading ‘Bride of Amman‘ as a citizen of Amman myself, I remember reading the book from the eyes of the different characters. Each character is so real and depicts true struggles people face in Jordan everyday behind closed doors. It made me connect to a book in a way I never had. The same applies to Laila. Without giving too much away, Laila is the main character, a strong woman who has found strength and courage to be true to her sexual desires, her strength as a provider for her family and fought the gender stereotypes within her home. This character resonated with me deeply, because I know there are so many Laila’s in Jordan that are just as hidden as she is. As an avid reader, I read a lot of books, and reading about sexual fantasies or dominant women in the bedroom is quite common in many English books. But to read about an Arab woman is quite different, because this issue, like many others, is taboo in this country. Fadi so openly talks through Laila about what it is like to be a strong woman in Jordan, what it is like to be a scared yet masculine man like Tariq, and what gender roles look like in a Jordanian family.

 As an avid reader, I read a lot of books, and reading about sexual fantasies or dominant women in the bedroom is quite common in many English books. But to read about an Arab woman is quite different, because this issue, like many others, is taboo in this country. 


I am proud to be a somewhat far relative of Fadi’s, and I remember when members of our family read the book (Jordanian family members), they warned me about the explicit language and uncomfortable events that take place throughout the book. I didn’t find them uncomfortable or strange. Instead, I found this book liberating, and it is very naive to think that the events within the pages of this book are uncommon, strange or unheard of.

 I found this book liberating, and it is very naive to think that the events within the pages of this book are uncommon, strange or unheard of.


I would highly recommend this read, if not for women to find strength within themselves, but for men and women to redefine what masculinity means, and that dominance is by no means a measure of masculinity or superiority, whether in or out of the bedroom.

An excerpt from LAILA by Fadi Zaghmout


                  He was rude when he crept up to me in the bathroom as I was brushing my teeth. He hugged me from behind, and, making sure I felt the bulge in his pants, he swept my hair from my shoulder, his lips ready to plant a kiss on my neck. He still wanted to impose his manhood on me as if his limited way of thinking could not accept the fact that I was repulsed by him. As if his ears were tuned deaf every time I said in no uncertain terms, ‘If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: I don’t want you!’

                  My entire body trembled the second I felt him close to me. My muscles tensed and my blood boiled. I tried to control myself and avoid any kind of overblown reaction, but he was shameless. He didn’t care. He was enjoying the burst of male hormones gushing through his veins, ready to act on the urge coursing through his body. I let him plant his kiss on me as I resisted an overwhelming desire to grab the perfume bottle in front of me and spray it in his eyes or to bite his arm, right on the cut I inflected on him the day before. He would have screamed in pain as he hurled a torrent of insults at me, or he would have probably slapped me or lunged at me, trying to hit and hurt me worse than I had hurt him. I would have responded in kind, slapping him back if he slapped me, clawing his face with my nails, or kicking him in the balls to teach him never to do that to me again.

                  But I was wise and acted fast. I ignored his erection pressed up against me. I finished brushing my teeth and put the toothbrush down. I took a sip of water, rinsed my mouth, spat the water out, and then quickly turned off the tap and quietly peeled myself away, leaving the bathroom as if nothing had happened. He followed me a minute later, a wicked smile on his face.

                  I realized that his mind refused to register that I was rejecting him, so he decided to think of my reaction as part of a game. A chase where he was the predator and I the prey. The idea of him as the predator gave him a sense of power, while my resistance translated in his mind as a chance to prove his dominance over me, an invitation to reassert his masculinity. He must have viewed it as fake resistance, the kind prevalent in Egyptian movies. A form of coquettish hard-to-get play used by women to entice men and turn them on. At the end of such a scenario, in his mind, after a few flirtatious moves and acts of fake modesty, I was bound to fall into his arms, surrender to his masculinity, capitulate to his virility.

                  I was a predator. I didn’t think much of the chase unless I was the one doing the chasing, the one breaking a man, reducing him to a meek lamb. Obedient, submissive. Under my control. I had to act firmly when Firas stealthily slunk up behind me as I stood in front of the mirror clasping my bra. I spun around and looked him straight in the eye. ‘What do you want?’

                  ‘Gosh! You’re so stubborn,’ he huffed, as if he didn’t expect my question, or was too embarrassed to come out and just say he wanted me.

                  ‘I’m the one who’s stubborn?’ I snapped, turning my back to him. I picked up my eyeliner and leaned forward, closer to the mirror.

                  ‘Yes. You. You’re so stubborn!’ He yelled at me.

                  ‘And so are you!’ I yelled back as I opened my eye wide to line it with kohl.

                  “Oh, come on. Let’s give it a try,’ he said suddenly, changing his tone, trying to win me over.

                  ‘We’ve tried plenty of times, Firas. You want something and I want something else,’ I replied, unmoved.

                  ‘See how stubborn you are? You insist on acting like the man in bed.’

                  I stopped doing my eyeliner and fixed a sharp gaze on him. ‘Fuck off!’ I said, before adding cynically, ‘Shouldn’t you first know what being a man really means?’

                  ‘Respect yourself and act like a lady!’ he yelled.

                  ‘Act like a lady?’ I almost fell to the floor laughing. ‘Yes, sir. Whatever you say, honey. If you say so, darling. I’ll respect my self and act like a lady, just like you want me to.’ I smoothed my long hair behind my ears and spun around to face him. I put my finger in my mouth, licking it and tilting my head as I gazed at him seductively, adopting the flirtatious Syrian accent of the women from Bab al-Hara. ‘Is this how you like it, babe? What can I do for you, my king, my universe?’

                  Dumbfounded, he watched me carry on with my playacting, making fun of him.

                  ‘I’m at your beck and call, love,’ I teased. I took two steps toward the bed and sat down gently, pouting like Haifa Wehbe in her “Boos El Wawa” music video. I pressed my knees together, lay my head on the pillow, and, running my fingers across my breasts, whispered seductively, ‘Come on then. Come and get it.’

                  But before he could make a move, I flicked the switch, changing my tone of voice and my body language.

                  ‘I know it’s how you want me to be,’ I said, standing up and adopting a serious tone. I raised my head to look him in the eye and added, ‘But I’m not like that and I will never be like that. Not for you and not for anyone else. Got it?’

The Arab Observer interviews Natasha Tynes


Natasha Tynes

It is always a pleasure to see a new Jordanian getting published, and it is double the pleasure when it happens to be one of the fellow old bloggers. I was first introduced to Natasha’ Tynes’s writings around 14 years ago through her blog which I enjoyed and admired back then. And, fast-forward to two years ago, I was honored to read the draft of her first novel when she approached me seeking advice on how to get it published. She didn’t need my advice, as she was determined and passionate, and proud of her work. Eventually she got it done, and successfully released last summer. A book that I enjoyed reading, and loved because it highlighted a space/time that is dear to my heart and is rarely covered in our cultural productions.

It has been a long time since I did any interview on my blog, but I am happy to chat with Natasha, and happy to present this interview that talks about her book, her experience in getting it publisher, and recommendations to aspiring writers. Hope you enjoy reading it!

They Called Me Wyatt

Fadi: Congratulations for the release of the 2nd edition of “They Called Me Wyatt”. I remember reading the draft before you released it and enjoyed all of the nostalgic references to Amman in the 80’s. But lets hear you, tell us more about the book for the readers of this blog. What is the story all about?

Natasha: My debut novel They Called Me Wyatt is a murder mystery set between Jordan and the US, featuring Jordanian student Siwar Salaiha who is murdered on her birthday in Maryland, but her consciousness survives, finding refuge in the body of a Seattle baby boy. Stuck in this speech delayed three-year old body, Siwar tries but fails to communicate with Wyatt’s parents, instead she focuses on solving the mystery behind her murder. Eventually, her consciousness goes into a dormant state after Wyatt undergoes a major medical procedure.


Fast-forward twenty-two years. Wyatt is a well-adjusted young man with an affinity towards the Middle East and a fear of heights. While working on his graduate degree in Middle Eastern studies, Wyatt learns about Siwar’s death, which occurred twenty-five years ago. For reasons he can’t explain, he grows obsessed with Siwar and spends months investigating her death, which police at the time erroneously ruled as suicide. His investigation forces him to open a door he has kept shut all his life, a spiritual connection to an unknown entity that he frequently refused to acknowledge. His leads take him to Amman, Jordan where after talking to her friends and family members and through his special connection with the deceased, he discovers a clue that unravels the mystery of her death. Will Siwar get justice after all?

Fadi: The book has a unique concept and does a great job highlighting issues of identity and rift between East and West. How much of that was built on your own identity as a person, being a Christian Arab and living in the US? I am sure there is a big space to tackle here when one is faced with different identity agencies. It is a rich material to work on and I think you have done it nicely in the book.

Natasha: My book is loosely based on my formative years, my childhood and coming-of-age in Amman, Jordan. My identity as an Arab-American and also as a Jordanian-Christian has definitely shaped my novel since I tend to write about what I know and how I see the world. However, I tried to stay away from the topic of religion in my novel. My main focus is the Arab identity as a whole, and the challenges faced by an Arab immigrant to the US.

Natasha signing her book

My book is loosely based on my formative years, my childhood and coming-of-age in Amman, Jordan.

Natasha Tynes

Fadi: I like mostly about “They Called Me Wyatt” that it captures a part of Amman we rarely see in Literature. The stories of west Amman that seem to fail to find a place in local literature, as if our stories don’t worth documenting because that part of the city is “too westernized” and doesn’t fit with the overall cultural image we have for the country? I also grew up in the same period of the 80s and 90s and I have experienced much of what you mentioned in the book about the life of Siwar. Unfortunately that period of time was dominated by conservative media and didn’t leave much space for such stories to see the light. What do you to say about this?

Natasha: I agree. You rarely see literature, especially literature in English, that tackles growing up in Amman in the 80’s and the 90’s. Amman has changed dramatically since then. I feel part of me still feels nostalgic to the old Amman, to the Amman of my childhood, that’s why I based my novel around it. Life back then was simpler. We really had nothing, but we had each other, the family, the cousins, the friends, the neighbors. We spent our days playing outside, not glued to a screen like kids these days. We had adventures, we formed friendships, we learned life lessons. It was wonderful. I deeply miss it.

Natasha reading from her book

Fadi: I remember the time when you were looking for a publisher for your book. Being a writer myself, I know how hard it is to find a publisher who is willing to adopt your work and support it, especially when it is your first one. You approached it as it is a full time job and were pretty much determined to get it done, and I applaud you for that. There are many writers out there who are struggling to get their first work get published, tell us about your experience and what would you advise them?

Natasha: My advice for you if you want to be a writer, is that you need to develop a thick skin and be ready to be rejected hundreds of times. Buckle up. Your soul will be crushed and you will constantly doubt yourself. Remember that what makes a good writer is not only talent but also persistence, resilience and hard work. Keep applying, keep submitting your manuscript to agents and publishers. Keep getting rejections until you eventually get the acceptance that you have always dreamt about.

My advice for you if you want to be a writer, is that you need to develop a thick skin and be ready to be rejected hundreds of times. Buckle up. Your soul will be crushed and you will constantly doubt yourself.

Natasha Tynes

Fadi: Soon after your book got released, you were faced by a stupid incident that costed you your publishing agreement. I remember being on the goodreads page of your book. Initially I was surprised that you had a thousand reviews in such a short time, which I thought wow, Natasha’s book has picked up, but when I started reading the reviews, I felt shocked with the amount of hatred you received. They were giving you one star review and attacking you personally rather than objectively assessing your work. It must have been a tough time for you. Tell us about the incident and how did you handle it. Did the bad publicity help you in any way or form? You know what they say “bad publicity is good publicity”, you may beg to differ.

Natasha: I was involved in a Twitter controversy after I tweeted about a DC metro employee breaking the rules on the job. In retrospect, I should have used a more private manner to complain, and if I can take this back I would. To my shock, I was seen as racist since the metro employee in question is African-American, although I never mentioned the color of her skin! In addition to all the death threats I received and all the derogatory comments, my novel’s Goodreads page was attacked by thousands of people who left one-star reviews without reading the book, and who also left personal attacks. I contacted Goodreads numerous times, but they never took action. Thankfully, a new publisher picked up the book after my old publisher caved to the online mob and dropped the book. This was really hard on me and I sunk into deep depression. Thankfully, there was a happy ending with the book being republished. The only way the “bad publicity” helped me was that I got a better publisher

Fadi: Do you plan on translating the book and publish it in Arabic? As I mentioned before, I feel that we miss these stories in our local literature. It’s actually part of the reason I started writing myself. I felt that our lives are rarely represented accurately in literature. It would be nice to have your book translated. Do you write in Arabic? Have any plans of writing any of your future work in Arabic?

Natasha: I definitely would love to see my novel translated into Arabic, I have already talked to a number of Arab publishers in the region, but there is nothing concrete yet.

Fadi: I know from experience that working on promoting the book takes same time and effort of writing it. How did you promote your book? You once gave me a good tip to approach “Instagrammers” for reviews. That was brilliant. What other things do you recommend?

Natasha: These days authors do the bulk of marketing, so you need to spend a big chunk of your time marketing your work. Here are some tips:

  1. Create your own newsletter and send it to your subscribers at least once a month. Keep them updated with your latest news. Newsletter is a must!
  2. Approach people who run podcasts. There are tons who interview authors and review books.
  3. Contact bookclubs (there are a number of virtual ones) and ask them if they would be willing to read your book and host you as a guest to answer questions.
  4. Join a writers group Facebook group. They are usually very supportive and offer a lot of help and advice.

Fadi: Who are your favorite authors? and what’s your favorite book?

Natasha: I love the work of Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Diaz, Ahdaf Soueif and Dave Eggers. I think my favorite book is The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Fadi: Are you working on a new story? What is it about?

Natasha: I’m working on a novel set in Amman, Jordan. It’s about a building whose residents all immigrate to the US and all end up facing unfortunate and sometimes tragic events. They all wonder if these unforeseen harsh circumstances were a result of their bad luck, or if they were actually all cursed. Was there a hex (a’mal in Arabic) in the building that never left them? Or was it their own choices?

I am look forward to reading more of Natasha’s work and wish her all the best. For more about her and her work, visit her website http://natashatynes.com/

“Such a strong one of a kind novel” a new review and 5 stars rating for Laila wal Hamal


It makes me happy to get such feedback on my latest book “Laila wal Hamal”, especially when it comes from a Jordanian woman. Hiba Roza posted this new review on the book’s good reads page today.

Such a strong one of a kind novel, I personally was searching far too long for any work of Arabic literature that portraits women as the leader of the relationship, so when I first read this I was finally satisfied, thank you for that.

Sadly, this is true. And played a good part in why I wanted to write this book. Women are not fairly represented in Arabic Literature. I think that Feminist Arabic Literature has fallen to the discourse of victimizing women, ending up in emphasizing the notion that women are weaker in nature.

Now as for the characters I could find a strong connection between Laila and Tareq, so I sympathized with the two of them, however at the end I couldn’t but to feel happy for the death sentence, it can symbolize the end of the macho patriarchy era so I didn’t find any sympathy in me towards Firas.

This part has a spoiler but I like how she interpreted the event as a symbol for the end of the macho patriarchy era, which is inline of what I had in mind. I wanted to write a radical feminist novel, and made sure to challenge the notion of “The Eastern Man”. I punish men in the book, not because I want to punish men in real life, but to show how toxic masculinity is bad to both men and women.

I like the story line so much and you know you could’ve given us more flashbacks to the characters’ childhood, and more insight to the characters’ psyche, this novel could’ve been way longer if you invested more into it and you owe us that being the first author to examine such plot twist. Please write something similar soon and thank you so much!

I hear you Hiba and agree with you. Maybe I should have invested more into it and added to it. I really wish other Arabic authors would pick up the line of thought and start brining up stories with such strong lead women characters. It is about time!