Letter to Jehane ...
by Nadia El Kholy
I'm writing you this email from Richmond, Virginia where I'm teaching for a semester at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University). I'm doing a course on Egyptian Feminism and four of my students had to do a presentation on your dear mother, Doria Shafik. I had never read the biography written by Cynthia Nelson before, so, I had to check it out from the library and read it quickly before the day of the presentation. I started reading at about 6pm and I couldn't go to sleep before finishing the entire book which was at about 5.30am! I was totally entranced by it and in many instances I cried. Although, I am reading with my class many textbooks that have extensive sections on Doria Shafik and all her struggles for women's rights, reading this book was a totally different matter. It was an experience that is difficult to summarize in words, it made me understand why both my parents spoke very fondly of your mother and I remember mummy saying how cultured and refined she was.
The following day in class, last Thursday, the students gave a wonderful presentation and the amazing thing is how well they related to the biography and were incredibly sensitive to the many nuances in the text. They talked about Doria Shafik with so much passion, and so much anger at how life was unfair to her, that I could see in the eyes of the entire class a sense of understanding to the entire feminist struggle that we have been discussing since last January, there was so much energy and positivism in the presenters delivery that transformed the life of Doria Shafik into a predicament that they themselves could identify with and fully comprehend. Distances, time, religion, culture were all transcended into a purely fundamental understanding and sympathy of human suffering and injustice.
I had this urge of sharing this with you and I do hope that I haven't in any way upset you. But, having lost my dear mother two years ago, I sometimes feel it's very comforting to talk about the precious people we have lost because as my father used to say:"On n'oublie rien du tout, on s'habitue c'est tout."
Nadia El Kholy