National identity in Sonia Nimr’s children’s book Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands

University essay from Malmö universitet/Fakulteten för kultur och samhälle (KS)

Abstract: In this thesis, depending on Benedict Anderson’s Studies of nationalism in his book The Imagined Communities, I will prove that in her historical fiction for children, Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands, the Palestinian writer Sonia Nimr is reviving and reforming Arab national identity. Anderson identifies the nation as a group imagined by its members; the people who perceive and identify themselves as equal members in this group. For the people to imagine their nation, Anderson states three tools: the map as a representation of the geographical space, the census as a representation of population identity categories that live in a particular land, and the museum as the representation of historical and the legal continuity of certain ethnicities in a certain geographical space. The three tools are thoroughly abstracted and used in Nimr’s book as we follow the footsteps of Nimr’s heroine in her travels, we see her drawing Arab historical map, when Palestine was a canton in the great Arab State. The social fabric Nimr weaves by the characters in her book reflects the real and the reformed census of Arab ethnicities and their social classes with the highlighting of the essential role of Arabic women in society. The narrated society of Nimr’s work reforms nation’s census which accords with the extended pan Arab geography of Arab nation. The nation imagining requirements are completed by visiting the history and wandering in the historical Arabic cantons and cities which materialize Nimr’s trail to perpetuate those important places in her textual museum, which she builds in her addressed work to children to answer their question about who we are and how we are the most eligible ethnicities to live on this land. Nimr does not promote a certain political agenda nor casts a holy cover on the past; by contrast, she teaches Arab children past lessons to revive and reform their modern Arab national identity as a remedy for the catastrophic national present.

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