Born: Beirut, Lebanon, 10 October 1943; daughter of a Lebanese father and Swiss mother; naturalized U.S. citizen, 1972. Education: Primary and secondary education in Beirut, Beirut College for Women (then Beirut University College, now Lebanese American University), A.A., 1965; Anderson College, Anderson, Indiana, B.A. in English Literature, 1967; Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, M.A. in French, 1968; Indiana University, Bloomington, Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, 1973. Family: Divorced from husband; living with her long-term companion. Career: Taught French at Anderson College, Anderson, Indiana, 1967-68, and both English and French at International College, Beirut, Lebanon, 1968-70. Worked at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as assistant professor, 1974-79, and associate professor from 1979-88. Taught at Beirut University College, 1984, and visiting professor at Northwestern University, 1991. She continues her work at the University of Illinois at the African Center, Women’s Studies Center, French Department, Comparative Literature Department, the Honors Program and Center for Middle East Studies. Taught in Beirut, Lebanon on a Fulbright Scholarship, 2002. Lives in the United States. Awards: Florence Howard award, Women’s Caucus for the Modern Languages Association, 1975; Special Recognition award, Illinois Arts Council, 1979; International Educator’s award, Delta Kappa Gamma, 1979; Fulbright award, Tunisia, 1983-85; Social Science Research Council grant, 1987-88; Prix France-Liban, Association des Ecrivans de Langue Frangaise, 1993; American Institute for Maghrebi Studies grant, 1995; Prix Phenix de literature, 2001; Fulbright award, Lebanon, 2002. Member: Coordination Internationale des Chercheurs sur les Litteratures Maghrebines, Conseil International d’Etudes Francophones, Expert Witness International, Modern Language Association of America, National Women’s Studies Association, Middle East Studies Association, African Literature Association, American Association of Teachers of French, African Studies Association, American Institute for Maghribi Studies, Arab American University Graduates, Arab Women Solidarity Association, Radius of Arab-American Writers, Association des Ecrivains de Langue Frangaise, Societe des Auteurs, Compositeurs, et Editeurs de Musique, Women’s Caucus for the Modern Language Association, North Eastern Modern Language Association, Foundation Noureddine Aba, Coalition against Trafficking in Women, Delta Kappa Gamma.


Fiction and Critical Studies

Veil of Shame: The Role of Women in the Modern Fiction of North Africa and the Arab World. 1978.

L’Excisee. 1982 and 1992; as The Excised, translated by David K.Bruner, 1989 and 1994.

Contemporary Arab Women Writers and Poets, with Rose Ghurayyeb. 1986.

Coquelicot du massacre (with a cassette of songs). 1988.

Sexuality and War: Literary Masks of the Middle East. 1990; as Des femmes, des homes et la guerre: Fiction et realite au Proche-Orient, 1993.

Blessures des mots: journal de Tunisie. 1993; as Wounding Words: A Woman’s Journal in Tunisia, translated by Cynthia T. Hahn, 1996.

Voyages en Cancer. 2000; as The Wounded Breast: Intimate Journeys Through Cancer, 2001.


Les filles de Tahar Haddad (play). Adaptation of Blessures des mots, in conjunction with women of the feminist movement Accad met in Tunisia while on a Fulbright scholarship, 1995.

Translator, Montjoie Palestine!; or, Last Year in Jerusalem, dramatic poem by Noureddine Aba. 1980.

Critical Studies:

”Sexuality and War: Literary Masks of the Middle East” by Mona Fayad, in College Literature, vol. 19, no. 3, 1992; ”Wounding Words” by Saadi A. Simawe, in Arab Studies Quarterly, vol. 21, issue 4; ”A Poetics of Pain: Evelyne Accad’s Critical and Fictional World” by Ruth A. Hottell, in World Literature Today, vol. 71 no. 3; Postcolonial Representation: Women, Literature, Identity by Francoise Lionnet, 1995.

Evelyne Accad was first published during the 1970s, when the sexual revolution was in full swing, giving American women unprecedented rights in relation to their bodies, careers, and social roles. In contrast, the status of women in most Arab and North African countries during the 1970s did not change, and grew worse in some cases, as authoritarian dictators took over post-colonial governments. Accad’s youth in Beirut, Lebanon was restricted by the patriarchal social ties of Arab society; bonds that she broke by moving to the United States in 1965 and becoming a naturalized citizen. Her literature gives all Arab women a voice, and a greater chance to live free from male oppression. The issue of women’s rights in the Arab world gained national prominence after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks perpetrated by Islamic extremists in the United States, and the subsequent attacks on the Taliban in Afghanistan. The position of women in Islamic societies was well advertised by American propagandists who sought to spur the United States into military action. If Accad’s novels gain popularity from American attempts to understand Islamic culture, so much the better. Accad gives a unique first-hand account of the sexual politics found in Arab and North African countries.

Accad’s novels turn personal experiences into engaging social treatises, shedding light on complex political and social issues. Themes that surface in her works include the relationship between men and women, the social effects of war, the tolerance (or intolerance) of difference, and responsibility for the environment. Arab and North African women are shown as the victims of societies that attempt to hide, shame, and destroy all that is feminine. War in

Lebanon and other countries is seen as an activity propagated by men, to the detriment of women, as reflected in Accad’s images of raped cities violently bombed and conquered. The female body is also the scene of man’s war with nature, to tame and dominate; but Accad reminds us that it is also man’s duty to tend to the environment and the female body. Accad renders the conflicts between men and women, cultures, and ideologies into poignant accounts of personal suffering and triumph.

In Veil of Shame Accad revisits the female oppression that she endured during her upbringing in Lebanon, by evaluating the role of women in North African and Arab culture and literature. This novel of literary criticism reflects Accad’s scholarly background, while emphasizing the utility of unconventional literary genres such as poetry and the personal memoir. The practice of female circumcision in Arab society is examined in L’Excisee (The Excised), with the story of one woman’s physical and psychological domination by men. Although the main character is unable to speak out against her aggressors, she escapes and is exiled, or ”excised” from her own country. Civil war in Beirut, Lebanon (1975-90), and the ways in which the victims of this war deal with pain, are described in Coquelicot du massacre. The female protagonist, Nour, is overwhelmed by the suffering city of Beirut, but she is able to overcome her pain with hope. Sexuality and War is a political treatise on the use of nationalism and war to oppress women in Lebanon and other countries. Accad’s theory that men’s violence (and thus war) stems from the fear and loathing of women is supported by the criticism and interpretation of several Arab authors. Female authors Hanan al-Shaykh, Etel Adnan, and Andree Chedid are compared to male writers Tawfiq Yusuf Awwad, Halim Barakat, and Elias Khoury. All authors, regardless of sex, admit that war is damaging to society as a whole, but does much greater ill to women than to men. After Sexuality and War Accad wrote a more personal account of sexual politics, Blessures des mots (Wounding Words), a story loosely based on Accad’s stay as a Fulbright scholar in Tunisia. The protagonist travels to Tunisia in order to study and advocate feminism, but is dismayed to find a society mired in patriarchic Islamic tradition.

The main character, Hayate, attempts to understand the gap that has formed between men and women in Tunisian society. Her story is told in a way that highlights communication differences between genders. The novel is interspersed with emotional poems and scholarly observations; feminine and masculine literary genres that are balanced with the medium that is prose. Wounding Words was also turned into a play by women of the Tunisian feminist movement in 1995, called Les filles de Tahar Haddad, performed in Tunisia and accompanied by Accad’s own songs. Poems, songs, and speeches often supplement Accad’s writings. This multidisciplinary approach is likewise enhanced by her mastery of several languages: French, English, and Arabic. Accad’s multicultural background allows her to explain Arab and North African cultures to Western minds, while it has also given her the ability to transcend her cultural and gender-based biases to entertain a worldview.

In 1994 Accad started chemotherapy to treat breast cancer. Her struggles with this disease are chronicled in Voyages en Cancer (The Wounded Breast); on the cover is a picture of the defiant author with bald head and naked chest. Her hair has fallen out due to the chemotherapy, and she is missing one breast due to a mastectomy. The novel contains the poems and personal investigations of cancer that she undertook while she was sick, and recovering from therapy. Accad draws a strong link between man’s abuse of nature, and the abuse of the female body with environmental chemicals and prescribed drugs, which she blames for causing her illness. Her mastectomy is reminiscent of the fabled Amazons, who cut off their breasts in order to become more effective in battle. However, it is not a war that Accad proposes, rather a reevaluation of the social and cultural attitudes that bring about violence, particularly against women. Male dominance has not only crippled women in patriarchic Arab societies; it has also tipped the balance of power in the whole of these societies, making war and intolerance commonplace. Accad suggests through her many novels, poems, songs, and critical works that oppressed women should leave their abusers, and return with reinforcements to help those who are still in need.

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