The Greater Freedom Book Summary - The Greater Freedom Book explained in key points
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The Greater Freedom summary

Alya Mooro

Life as a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the Stereotypes

3.8 (26 ratings)
23 mins
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    The Greater Freedom
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    As an Arab girl growing up in Britain, Alya felt caught between two cultures. 

    Growing up, Alya often felt defined by her otherness, rather than her own unique personality traits. 

    In predominantly white Britain, people of color are often subject to lazy caricature. That’s why people who aren’t white are often confused with other people from the same background. For example, the British media has mistakenly used a photo of the Belgian footballer Lukaku in stories about grime artist Stormzy. 

    Alya also personally experienced this. At school, she was often confused with other brown girls in her class: another Egyptian girl, as well as a girl who was half Pakistani and half Italian. 

    But Alya isn’t the only one who has struggled with proactively defining her identity. What “Arab” means has always been unclear: even UNESCO and Wikipedia list different numbers of Arab states. Many nationalities in the Middle East traditionally don’t consider themselves Arabs at all, a feeling shared by Egyptians too.

    Diaspora Arabs have had to define their identity in a new way, though. In the melting-pot of London, surrounded by so many other nationalities, Arab identity has crystallized. Alya’s Middle Eastern neighbors and her own family bonded over their similarities, in contrast to the white, British norm.

    But even if Alya and her friends identify as Arab, that doesn’t mean there’s a place for them. Arab girls growing up in the UK are often forced to choose between identifying as white or black. This happens in highly segregated schools, as well as on official forms, where “Arab” often isn’t an option.

    Looking for role models, she observed that mainstream media doesn’t portray realistic versions of Arab characters. For instance, while representation has gotten better since 9/11, it’s only because there are more stories about terrorism – and Arabs are relegated to playing terrorists.

    A study that analyzed television shows in 2015 and 2016 showed that 92 percent of scripted shows had no season regulars of Middle Eastern origins. Of the ones that did, 78 percent appear as terrorists, agents, soldiers, or tyrants, and 67 percent spoke with an accent. 

    This is especially harmful for children, who see only distorted versions of themselves reflected in the media. Without good role models, kids can become listless, and potentially even perform the stereotype. If society expects Arab children to be angry, it’s a lot easier to actually become that way. 

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    What is The Greater Freedom about?

    The Greater Freedom (2019) chronicles one British-Egyptian woman’s struggle to forge her own identity from the two cultures that raised her. Using stories from her own background, detailed research, and interviews with fellow women of the Arab diaspora, author Alya Mooro examines issues including sexuality, Islam, beauty standards, and immigration. She ultimately finds that there is freedom in choosing to exist in-between established tropes of culture, nationality, and identity.

    Who should read The Greater Freedom?

    • Modern women reckoning with their conservative upbringing
    • Anyone who has ever felt self-conscious about their appearance
    • Anyone whose family is more religious than they are

    About the Author

    Alya Mooro is a British-Egyptian author and journalist who has contributed on topics of culture, beauty, and fashion to publications including Grazia, Refinery29, and The Telegraph. Using social media and her blog as platforms, she has come to embody the millennial third culture kid: sophisticated, introspective, and opinionated.

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