Book Review: Fascinating portrait of emirate at crossroads of modernity and tradition

'People of Ras Al-Khaimah' by Anna Zacharias tells the story of the town in the words of the people. (Shutterstock)
Updated 26 February 2019
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Book Review: Fascinating portrait of emirate at crossroads of modernity and tradition

BEIRUT: Over the years, Medina Publishing has established a reputation for its quality books about the Arabian Peninsula and a recent publication sheds light on one of the lesser-known emirates, Ras Al-Khaimah.
The cover photograph of “People of Ras Al-Khaimah,” featuring three elderly women wearing the burqa, a mask covering the eyebrows, part of the nose and the lips, sets the tone of this book.
Author Anna Zacharias tells us the story of Ras Al-Khaimah “in the words of its people” with an impressive series of portraits highlighting the smooth integration between the immigrant population, the Emiratis and their rulers. 
The “Gulf culture is neither static nor at risk” and there “is also evidence of the continual cultural adaptation,” writes the Canadian author. 
Ali Rashed, a camel-race commentator is a good example. Pragmatic and versatile, he quickly understood the potential of the VHS technology during the late 1970s and 1980s. He opened a video shop, bought a camera and was the only one with the right to make videos.

Nowadays people can watch a race on their phone. “Culture and modernity are easily reconciled,” writes Zacharias.
The coffee table book features photographs of more than 50 people who live in the state, including Emiratis and foreign expats from both urbanized areas and the surrounding villages.
Unlike Dubai, the dazzling city with the biggest, the tallest and the most expensive, Ras Al-Khaimah stands at a crossroads between modernity and tradition and this book has captured that elusive moment in time with its engaging interviews, sleepy anecdotes of a bygone era and sun-drenched photography. 
American photojournalist Jeff Topping, and Zacharias worked together to produce the book, which charts the state’s history and explores its diverse landscape — a patchwork of inviting beaches, sprawling lagoons, mangrove forests, slithering sand dunes, date palms oases and craggy mountains.
The book was launched with the support of the Ras Al-Khaimah Media Office and should not be used as a historical guide to the emirate, but rather a fascinating and visually appealing collection of amusing stories and gorgeous images from a little-explored corner of the UAE.


What We Are Reading Today: The Body Papers by Grace Talusan

Updated 24 May 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: The Body Papers by Grace Talusan

Grace Talusan’s memoir The Body Papers bravely explores her experiences with sexual abuse, depression, cancer, and life as a Filipino immigrant, supplemented with government documents, medical records, and family photos.

“Much of Talusan’s memoir will be familiar to any reader of immigrant narratives. But what renders the book memorable — perhaps what earned it the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing — is the author’s unstinting self-portrait,” said Luis H. Francia in a review published in The New York Times.

“We see Talusan clearly in the present, warts and all, precisely through the stark, lucid representations of herself in the past. Having moved with her family from the Philippines to suburban America when she was two years old, Talusan recalls complex feelings of loss, displacement and adjustment,” the critic added.

A review published in goodreads.com said: “The generosity of spirit and literary acuity of this debut memoir are a testament to her determination and resilience. In excavating and documenting such abuse and trauma, Talusan gives voice to unspeakable experience, and shines a light of hope into the darkness.”