Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran,Marjane Satrapi’s comics, and “Baghdad Blogger” Salam Pax’s Internet diary are just a few examples of the new face of autobiography in an age of migration, globalization, and terror. But while autobiography and other genres of life writing can help us attend to people whose experiences are frequently unseen and unheard, life narratives can also be easily co-opted into propaganda. In Soft Weapons, Gillian Whitlock explores the dynamism and ubiquity of contemporary life writing about the Middle East and shows how these works have been packaged, promoted, and enlisted in Western controversies.
Considering recent autoethnographies of Afghan women, refugee testimony from Middle Eastern war zones, Jean Sasson’s bestsellers about the lives of Arab women, Norma Khouri’s fraudulent memoir Honor Lost, personal accounts by journalists reporting the war in Iraq, Satrapi’s Persepolis, Nafisi’s book, and Pax’s blog, Whitlock explores the contradictions and ambiguities in the rapid commodification of life memoirs. Drawing from the fields of literary and cultural studies, Soft Weapons will be essential reading for scholars of life writing and those interested in the exchange of literary culture between Islam and the West.