3 out of 4 stars
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Divided World: Plays of Occupation and Dispossession is an anthology of plays by Hannah Khalil, Kate Al Hadid, and Hassan Abdulrazzak. The plays are edited and compiled by Kenneth Pickering. It also includes a short play by Pickering himself. The playwrights draw on their experiences as Arab writers who were displaced from the Middle East. The plays discuss immigration, death, sorrow, and grief from the perspectives of a diverse set of characters.
The first play by Kenneth Pickering discusses the colonization and terror caused by the British and French forces in the Middle East during the early 1900s. It was very different from the other plays as the characters were presented as two white men whilst the other plays incorporated Arab characters. This, however, did not detract from the overall message, and kept the play in accordance with the rest of the book. It used satire, in a very clever way, to point out the audacity with which the Middle East was targeted. I think this play would be very appealing to watch on stage. The dark humor is bound to be more prominent on stage.
The rest of the plays in the anthology analyze the current immigration situation from the perspectives of various characters. The second play introduces the reader to a woman who discovers that her husband has given her coat to a refugee when she sees the missing coat on a stranger on her television. This particular play was eerily daunting. I found the tactic of approaching the subject from such a new perspective to be very intriguing.
The anthology also discusses freedom of speech. It introduces this topic through two plays. In one, a renowned poet is beheaded for writing controversial poems. Another play shows a young man who is unable to achieve his dreams because of the boundaries put in place by his parents and his country.
I think the anthology is an essential addition to the literature present today. It tackles an issue that needs to be talked about. I was very pleased to see that the narrative was handed over to a group of Arab writers to allow them their freedom of speech. The only play that I did not like was the last play in the anthology. It takes the reader into a nightmare which imagines Americans at the mercy of the Arabs. Essentially, it reverses the roles present today. This was a rather cliché idea and seemed unnecessary at the end of an anthology with revolutionary work.
The plays themselves were very well edited. I did not find any errors within the plays. There were however major mistakes at the beginning of the book before the plays started. For example, in the copyrights section, “published by” is written twice. I would rate this anthology 3 out of 4 stars.
I would recommend this book to every reader. It discusses essential topics and includes brilliant writing. I would also recommend students of drama to consider putting on plays based on this anthology.
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