From the Archives: Alexandra Chreiteh on Writing About Menstruation in Modern Standard Arabic

ArabLit & ArabLit Quarterly

In what sort of language should an author write about something as banal and contested as menstruation? Should a character pee in colloquial or Modern Standard Arabic? In this interview from 2015, Rachael Daum discusses urinary-tract infections, menstrual blood, and the ghost of colonialism with acclaimed Lebanese novelist and scholar Alexandra Chreiteh:

By Rachael Daum

Something I really admire about both of your novels so far is your head-on approach to very, shall we say, earthly matters. In Always Coca-Cola, Abeer gets her period, and in Ali and His Russian Mother, the protagonist is prone to UTIs, and you write very viscerally about the flow of blood and urine, respectively. I’m interested in this, and why you chose to have your readers confront these subjects? Particularly written in fus7a, or Modern Standard Arabic? 

Photo from Tufts University

Alexandra Chreiteh: First of all, it is the source of a…

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