(working title)
(Al mawluda)

Written by

(نادية كامل)

Published by


An inspirational Egyptian woman negotiates her multiple identities

Born tells the story of the author’s mother based on their conversations collected over 10 years. Marie Elie Rosenthal (1931-2010), was born in Cairo to a Jewish father of Turkish-Ukrainian origin and an Italian mother. She becomes Naela Kamel when she marries the journalist Saad Kamel. Naela’s life coincides with momentous changes in Egyptian society. The protagonist recalls childhood memories, when she was immersed in a mixed religious and cultural environment attending the Italian school in Cairo, and living through hardship during World War II. Soon afterwards she joined the Communist party and was an activist with her husband Saad: both of them were jailed for their political activities. When the foreign community left Egypt in the 1950s with the arrival of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Naela’s relatives moved to Italy and Israel, leading her to question her religious background. She was a journalist concerned with gender issues, a friend to intellectuals, a mother to Nadia and Dina, and a caring grandmother to Nabil.

Indicative number of pages: 552 p.

Foreign rights: contact the publisher


Translation samples

Reasons to publish this book

Born helps to discover the complexity of Egyptian society and women’s activism across multiple generations. The focus is on Naela’s personal memories: her account in the first person; lively and wise, full of anecdotes and emotions. Some photos accompany the text. This book experiments with literary genres and language, as it is written in Egyptian Arabic in a conversational tone. Naela’s story would appeal to Italian readers and all communities that had ties with Egypt during the last century.

Prizes and awards


Born the story of Naela Kamel née Marie Elie Rosenthal by Nadia Kamel (reading of an excerpt in English), by BILA HUDOOD: Arabic Literature Everywhere, July 2021

Communism in Style (English excerpt from Born: The Story of Naela Kamel, née Marie Elie Rosenthal) by Words Without Borders, March 2020

Inshallah we’ll get that permission (English excerpt from Born: The Story of Naela Kamel, née Marie Elie Rosenthal) by Los Angeles Review, 2020

The narrative voice is by turns witty and poignant, and it gives a fresh perspective on a unique and inspiring Egyptian woman in mid-twentieth-century history by Arab Voices in November 2020

Le succès d’une biographie repose principalement sur deux choses: la personnalité dont on relate l’histoire et l’écriture, ou l’art de raconter. Ce sont les deux éléments qui poussent le lecteur à «dévorer» avec acharnement les quelques 551 pages de la biographie de Nayla Kamel (in French) by Al-Ahram Hebdo in April 2018

Above all, it is a story told from the heart with a great deal of passion by Ahram Online in March 2018

Reviewed by Cristina Dozio