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Unveiled: How an American Woman Found Her Way Through Politics, Love, and Obedience in the Middle East


Unveiled: How an American Woman Found Her Way Through Politics, Love, and Obedience in the Middle East

UNVEILED is the poignant story of a woman who transcends the
traditional Palestinian customs that threaten her stability as wife
and mother.

Childhood memories remind Deborah Kanafani of the love she had for
her maternal great-grandmother, Fahimi Kirban. Fascinated by the
gypsies in her native Lebanon, she had been influenced by their
love for the earth and its bounty. Fahimi’s serene lifestyle
influences Deborah with a protective shroud, shielding her from
discord at home.

Deborah’s parents’ marriage ends in divorce when she is
six years old. Adultery, bickering and distrust are underpinnings
of her youth. Her father, a successful lawyer, loves his children
but displays his affection through materialism. Deborah remains
convinced that he adores her, despite his strange character traits.
Control is his byword, and Deborah bears the burden of his
possessive personality for many years. Her mother has remarried and
lives a plain but comfortable life, supporting Deborah throughout
her teen years. But she yearns for recognition from her elusive
flamboyant father.

In 1980 Deborah is a graduate student, traveling on the Queen
Elizabeth 2 to France. She meets a Jordanian delegation on board
and is invited to dine with the group. For five days she is
introduced to a sumptuous lifestyle. The Jordanian prince, 10 years
her senior, claims her affection, and his doctor broaches the
subject of marriage to Deborah. He persists in his courtship in
spite of her desire to “think it over.” Deborah enjoys
his grandiose standard of living but yearns for her modest one back
in New York. Her exposure to the wealthy but pampered lifestyle has
opened her eyes but does not lead to romance.

In her mid-20s Deborah is fascinated by global politics and moves
to Washington, D.C. Upon completion of her master’s thesis on
Arab stereotyping in American textbooks, she accepts a job as media
liaison for the National Association of Arab Americans, which is an
opportunity to form global ties. She meets the director of the Arab
League, a handsome Palestinian former soccer star named Marwan
Kanafani. During a United Nations gathering in New York, Marwan
courts her with a fanatic passion. He provides security for her and
opens the door to exciting personalities in the diplomatic world he

Deborah succumbs to his charms and agrees to marriage within six
months of their first meeting. She discovers that Marwan holds two
things dear --- the memory of his martyred brother, Ghassan, and
his affiliation with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)
--- and accepts that she will never occupy the same revered place
in his affections as them. Her role as partner and wife diminishes
during the Arab-Israeli conflict and subsequent formation of the
Palestinian state, and Marwan becomes a chief confidant to Yasser
Arafat, leader of the PLO.

Despite the birth of two children, Deborah watches her marriage
dissipate. Marwan travels to the Middle East regularly while
tensions with Israel increase. She feels isolation from former
friends when Marwan rebuffs the contact. Finally, after a trial
separation, the two agree to divorce. After the children visit him
in Ramallah, Deborah travels to join them. There, horror awaits her
when Islamic Law strangles her rights as mother, and Marwan refuses
to release them.

Deborah’s struggle to retain her maternal rights dominates
the remainder of her story. In her quest for justice, she calls
upon past relatives and acquaintances with knowledge of the process
she must undertake.

UNVEILED is written largely as narrative, with a small portion of
dialogue. Political thinking and social mores reveal a
non-religious facet of Middle Eastern life missing in other
biographical accounts of the region. Deborah relies on her
relationships with dominant females --- including Donna Shalala and
Suha Arafat --- to attain her goals. She emerges as a woman with
ambition, strengthened by personal trials, who documents their
stories in the process. Apolitical, UNVEILED is a human chronicle,
one of strength, courage and revelation.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 24, 2011

Unveiled: How an American Woman Found Her Way Through Politics, Love, and Obedience in the Middle East
by Deborah Kanafani

  • Publication Date: January 12, 2011
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • ISBN-10: 0743291840
  • ISBN-13: 9780743291842