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International Women’s Day Layla AlAmmar, Edna Adan Ismail and Etaf Rum

Festival of Ideas
Layla AlAmmar, Edna Adan Ismail and Etaf Rum

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Authors Etaf Rum and Layla AlAmmar, and woman’s rights activist Edna Adan Ismail, discuss their books, their favourite female artists and the women that inspire them.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, we have partnered with ShelterBox Book Club to present a panel of global storytellers for a special online event. Our panels’ books were read by the ShelterBox Book Club over the past two years, and we are delighted that the authors are able to join us virtually.

Layla AlAmmar’s The Pact We Made explores ideas of freedom and being a woman in Kuwait. Dahlia is staring down the barrel of her thirtieth birthday, the age when a Kuwaiti woman from a good family is past her prime marrying years. She straddles two worlds: one in which she’s a modern woman living in a modern city, and another where she can’t have male friends, or leave the country without her father’s consent.

The eldest child of an overworked doctor in the British Protectorate of Somaliland, Edna Adna Ismail was the first midwife in Somaliland. Later, as the first female Foreign Minister of Somaliland, she became a passionate campaigner for women’s rights and better health. Her memoir A Woman of Firsts tells the inspirational story of how she survived imprisonment, persecution, and civil war to become a pioneering politician, a leading light in the World Health Organisation, and a global campaigner for women’s rights.

Etaf Rum’s A Woman is No Man is set in America and tells the story of three generations of Palestinian-American women struggling to express their individual desires within the confines of their Arab culture. It’s an intimate glimpse into a controlling and closed cultural world, and a universal tale about family and the ways silence and shame can destroy those we have sworn to protect.

Our panel revisit their books, debate the power of stories and art, discuss the women who inspire the ongoing work of International Disaster Relief Charity ShelterBox and much more with Catherine Thornhill.

Layla AlAmmar

Layla AlAmmar is a writer and academic from Kuwait. She has an MSc in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh. She was the 2018 British Council International Writer in Residence at the Small Wonder Short Story Festival. The ShelterBox Book Club read her debut, The Pact We Made in April 2020. It was longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award. Her second novel, Silence is a Sense, was published in Spring 2021. She has written for The Guardian, LitHub, The Times Literary Supplement and ArabLit Quarterly. She is currently pursuing a PhD on the intersection of Arab women’s fiction and literary trauma theory.

Edna Adan Ismail

Edna Adan Ismail is the director and founder of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland, she is an activist and pioneer in the struggle for the abolition of female genital mutilation, and president of the organisation for victims of torture. She was the first medically trained midwife and first woman to drive in Somalia, she has also been the First Lady of the Somali Republic and was the first woman to become a minister in the Somaliland Government. In October 2020, the ShelterBox Book Club read her aptly titled autobiography A Woman of Firsts.

Etaf Rum

Etaf Rum is a Palestinian American Author, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She was born to Palestinian parents who grew up in refugee camps in Palestine before moving to America. She lives in North Carolina with her children and has bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and English Language and Literature, and an MA in American and British Literature and Philosophy. In spring 2021 the ShelterBox Book Club read A Woman is No Man, her debut novel which is a New York Times bestseller. She is currently working on a second novel.

Catherine Thornhill

Catherine Thornhill is the Head Bookworm at the ShelterBox Book Club. She caught the charity bug volunteering as a teenager at an Oxfam and then a Samaritan’s book shop and has since worked for Foodbanks, Citizen’s Advice, a Student’s Union, a Circus Charity and ShelterBox. Last year she edited Tamesis Street, a collaborative climate story with authors such as Bill Bryson, Monique Roffey and Joanne Harris.

Presented in Partnership

Booking Information

It’s important to us that ideas and debate are affordable to everyone. It’s also important that our commentators, artists, writers, poets and thinkers are paid. This is a Pay What You Can event. You are invited to choose your own contribution to the event. A free option is available. All proceeds go towards supporting our speakers and sustaining Bristol Ideas.

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