The Journey: Memoirs of an Egyptian Woman Student in America
By Radwa Ashour. Michelle Hartman, tr.
2018, Olive Branch Press, 978-1- 62371-9-975, $20, pb.
Reviewed by Piney Kesting on July 15, 2020
“From the moment I walked through the glass doors at Logan Airport in Boston [in 1973], I knew I’d stepped into a new world,” writes Radwa Ashour, who would become one of Egypt’s acclaimed novelists. The 27-year-old professor at Ain Shams University in Cairo had been accepted into the doctoral program at the new W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. The Journey, first published in Arabic in 1983 (Al-rihla: ayyam talibah misriyah fi amrika), is an intimate, often charmingly unfiltered view of Ashour’s reaction to this new world and the people she met. She shares her experiences not only as a scholar but as a political activist and young wife separated from her family and her Palestinian husband, poet Mourid Barghouti. In 1975 Ashour became the first student at the University of Massachusetts to receive a doctorate in African American literature, one of her many outstanding accomplishments before her untimely death in 2014.