Gaps in Contextualised Arabic Children’s Literature
The project explores the gaps in contextualised content in the currently available body of Arabic children’s literature. Context here can be spatial and/or historical and can be relayed in fiction as well as non-fiction resources. In fact, the majority of non-fiction books that are available in the market were translated from other languages and originally published in Europe and North America. Therefore, the information provided typically does not present young readers with a local perspective. A translated book on the history of science will give little to no credit to Middle Eastern astronomy or botany. Translated biographies of leading women in the world would include Zaha Hadid but would fail to make any reference to those who are not known to the West such as the poet Wallada Bint Al-Mustakfi of Andalusia and more modern writers such as Nazik al-Malaika of Iraq.
In the case of fiction books (which are mainly original works), the situation is much more nuanced as many can be considered contextualized (for example, through the use of local foods in the texts and illustrations that are inspired by traditional architecture). However, even in fiction books, many themes that would give more character to the content, remain ignored such as wildlife in the region, old (un)inherited mythology (with the exception of ancient Egyptian mythology), and some fascinating natural phenomena such as salt lakes, canyons, and marshes that are present throughout the region.
Rouba Beydoun attempts to fill some of these gaps by authoring non-fiction as well as fiction books addressing some of the absent themes she is researching.