A World I Loved: The Story of an Arab Woman
“This is my story, the story of an Arab woman. It is the story of a lost world,” writes Wadad Makdisi Cortas on the first page of her memoir. Born in Beirut in 1909 when present-day Lebanon was under Ottoman rule, Makdisi Cortas poignantly describes her idyllic childhood city by the sea. Her independent and impassioned life unfolds as her country struggles through years of increasing political upheaval and decades of civil war. “War has crowded the memories of my youth and old age and every stage in between,” she laments. One of the first Lebanese women to study at the American University of Beirut in the late 1920’s, she spent more than 40 years inspiring generations of young women as headmistress of Al-Ahliah School for Girls in Beirut. The first edition of her book, published in Arabic in the late 1960’s, became a popular textbook in Lebanon. Shortly before her death in 1979, Makdisi Cortas wrote an updated English version and entrusted it to her son-in-law, the renowned scholar Edward Said. The English edition was published in 2009, the centenary of her birth.