Rania Said is a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at University of Massachusetts in Boston. She has a PhD in Comparative Literature and a degree in English language and literature from the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Tunis. She studies autobiographical writing in the SWANA region with a focus on women’s testimonial writing of the “Arab Uprisings”.
When Rania Said began her work as a LEILA jury member, she asked for recommendations from people whose opinions she trusted, such as former professors. She also sourced books at bookshops or at conferences.
She is attentive to the geography of where authors are from: “Egyptian books are overrepresented, and I struggle to find North African literature here in the US. We need to create a balance, and I’m interested in books from a wider geographical range, working with young authors, and emerging authors. I also look for books from Syria that don’t just cover the war, for example.”
As far as choosing books for European publishers, Said says that in discussions with other LEILA jury members “we agreed on the fact that it is difficult to advocate for poetry and short stories, but I did choose one book of poetry. I try to push boundaries a little and change the narrative. In the travel writing genre I advocated for more south-north and south-south accounts.”
Said says she reads a lot of memoirs by Arab women and publishers seem to be interested in novels and memoirs, in particular by women.
Although she would like to see more literature from Tunisia translated, she says there is a lot of historical fiction being written there, and given its specificity, she is not sure it will be chosen for translation. She’d also like to see more translations, “from the Gulf countries, which are extremely underrepresented. I feel like Sudan and Saudi Arabia are going through literary revivals and are writing on topics like animal-human relations, or love and caring.”