Lebanese are famously known for their way with words.
Our culture’s expressive nature has helped produce countless literary prodigies who can beautifully communicate that which others often cannot properly describe.
However, there is an entire demographic of these Lebanese visionaries who are criminally underrated and gain far less exposure than they deserve: our women.
It is important to remember that for every Khalil Gibran, there is a May Ziade. Thus, here are 10 incredible Lebanese female writers and poets whom you should immediately add to your reading list.
#1 May Ziade
A classic in her own right, May Ziade was a Lebanese writer and poet who managed to break into a literary scene almost completely dominated by men in the early 1900s.
She is credited as one of the first Middle-Eastern feminist writers, a pioneer and a role model for other female writers in the region and around the world.
Famous works of hers include Humiliation and Rumors, Equality, and Platters of Crumbs.
#2 Hoda Barakat
Hoda Barakat is a Lebanese novelist currently based in Paris.
Educated at the Lebanese University, she has published 5 novels, 2 plays, and many short stories. Her works often explore themes of war and tragedy from a psychological perspective.
Her novel The Night Mail was awarded the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (Ipaf) in 2019.
Along with The Night Mail, her works include The Stone of Laughter, The Tiller of Waters, and Disciples of Passion.
#3 Hanan al-Shaykh
Hanan al-Shaykh is a distinguished Lebanese novelist, playwright, and journalist.
One of the most acclaimed contemporary Middle-Eastern writers, her works often center around the psychological nature and misconception of women in the culture of the region. She has published eight novels and been shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
As a journalist, she contributed to Al-Hasna’ women’s magazine and interviewed prominent Lebanese women for television.
Her famous works include Women of Sand and Myrrh, Only in London, Two Women by the Sea, and The Locust and The Bird and The Occasional Virgin, a memoir of her mother.
#4 Emily Nasrallah
Emily Nasrallah was a famed Lebanese writer and women’s activist. Her debut novel Birds of September won 3 Arabic literary awards and is widely considered a classic, taught in many Arabic schools.
She explored ideas related to the concept of leaving one’s home; the pain those left behind feel, the fear of new surroundings, and the bittersweet realization of the impossibility of return.
She received the Goethe Medal, among other awards, in 2017.
On top of Birds of September, her notable works include A House Not Her Own: Stories from Beirut, and Flight Against Time.
#5 Jessica Semaan
A rising poet to keep your eye on, Jessica Semaan is a Lebanese poet currently based in America.
Semaan provides a fresh voice for younger generations to relate to. Her poems and commentaries were released on Medium throughout the beginning of the Thawra, such as Lebnen, I am coming home. They went viral for the way they reminded many Lebanese of the dichotomy of adoration and disgust they often feel for their country.
Her debut novel Child of the Moon is available now.
#6 Iman Humaydan Younes
Younes is a novelist whose works center around women and the Lebanese civil war, often in relation to one another.
Her novels include B as in Beirut, Wild Mulberries, and Other Lives.
#7 Raghida Dergham
Dergham is an award-winning Lebanese female journalist.
She has contributed to and served as a political analyst for The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, and many more.
For 28 years, she served as Senior Diplomatic Correspondent and NY Bureau Chief for publication Al-Hayat, and currently serves as a contributor to the Nationalist, as well as being a board member of the International Women’s Media Foundation.
She is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Beirut Institute, a renowned non-partisan think-tank.
Her work and exposure for the Middle East have proven invaluable, and she has set a blueprint female journalists in the Middle-East may hope to follow.
#8 Vénus Khoury-Ghata
Vénus Khoury-Ghata is an award-winning, renowned Lebanese writer and poet based in France.
She has published 40 novels and collections of poems that center around women protagonists often set in contrast to male antagonists.
Her many awards include the 2011 Goncourt Prize for Poetry and the 1992 Grand Prize of the Société Des Gens De Lettres.
Her notable works include A House at the Edge of Tears, A Handful of Blue Earth, and She Says.
#9 Suzanne Alaywan
Suzanne Alaywan is both a poet and a painter.
She has published nine collections of poetry, many of which have been translated and featured in academic journals and poetry publications. Her art often accompanies her poetry to make for an even more expressive, personal reading.
Her more recent works include Junk Words, A Presence Called Love, and Blind Lantern.
#10 Nadia Tueni
Nadia Tueni was an award-winning Lebanese poet.
On top of publishing numerous collections of poetry, she contributed to many publications and was the literary editor of the Lebanese publication Le Jour.
Her writing centered around her complicated relationship with Lebanon, and she won many notable awards, such as the prestigious Prix de l’Académie Française, and Order of Le Pléiade.
Her famous works include Les Texts Blonds and La Terre Arretée.