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A World I Loved: The Story of an Arab Woman

Product Description

“This is my story, the story of an Arab woman. It is the story of a lost world. It begins in 1917, in Lebanon, when I was seven years old.” So opens this haunting memoir by Wadad Makdisi Cortas, who eloquently describes her personal experience of the events that have fractured the Middle East over the past century.

Through Cortas’ eyes we experience life in Lebanon under the oppressive French mandate, and her desire to forge an Arab identity based on religious tolerance. We learn of her dedication to the education of women, and the difficulties that she overcomes to become the principal of a school in Lebanon. And in final, heartbreaking detail, we watch as her world becomes rent by the “Palestine question,” Western interference, and civil war.

The World I Loved is both an elegy on Lebanon and her people, and the unforgettable story of one woman’s journey from hope to sorrow as she bears painful witness to the undoing of her beloved country by sectarian and religious division.

A World I Loved: The Story of an Arab Woman


  1. Ms Cortas desperately wants not to antagonize Muslims who were and are the neighbors of the Lebanese Christians. She wants to separate from the Jews who created the Christian religion. Many Jews speak Arabic as their mother tongue.

    She shows a heavy Westernization of the Lebanese Christians in the last century.

    The truth is that Christians like Jews leave the Levantine lands under the pressure of Muslims, they prefer the Christian environment of the US or Europe.

    The Lebanese writers want their books to be published in English or French, not so much in Arabic.

    Rating: 2 / 5

  2. When I bought “A World I Loved” at a book reading held by Mariam Cortas I was not sure that I was going to read the book. I had known the Cortas family for over fifty years, and I thought I would not learn anything new. Boy, was I wrong. I started reading the book on my 30 minute train ride home and then I stayed awake until the wee hours of the next day until I finished it.

    In hindsight, I think that my attraction to the book was strengthened many times over by the wonderfully written introduction by Mariam Cortas , the daughter of the author.Her account was full of candor and revealed some very special intimate details about the life of “The Arab Educator” par excellence. (We learn for example that Mrs. Cortas never had a bank checking account).

    The book itself is a concise history of the forces that have shaped the Middle East after WWI told through the lens of the personal experiences of a woman who spent a life time teaching, preaching and discussing such important topics as the injustice of the Sykes Picot accord.

    As much as I liked the book it yet left me wondering if it had been over edited. The early parts of the book do not provide enough explanation for the positions that Mrs Cortas took and how she arrived at them. The latter part of the book is so over edited that at times a full year is dispensed with in one paragraph.

    Let me end this review on a personal note. This eminently informative and pleasant book does not give one an insight into the wonderful personal attributes of why Mrs. Cortas was such a galvanizing force in Lebanon and the Middle East. Her biggest asset was her temperament; she was confident , passionate, considerate, rational and a person who inspired trust.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. I was a student at Madam Cortas’ school in the mid-1960s. While I admired and respected her and I loved Lebanon, I understood little of her life and the heritage of the land she loved, from Beirut to Baghdad to Jerusalem and back, across borders that would not exist but for the ambitions and interests of the far-away politicians and peoples in Europe, before the catestrophic consequences of European ideologies, and beyond imprint of organized violence on what is now Lebanon. Even the textbook I used in my history class the year I attended Cortas’ school bore a colonial imprint; literally an imprint of a UK publisher, this text of ancient history was entitled _The World Before Britian_.

    _A World I Loved_ drew me in and challenged my views of the terrain and the people of what are now Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Israel. Cortas teaches history from the too rare perspective of an optimistic, educated, compassionate Arab woman, a woman who held her identity as an Arab woman with great pride. Cortas dedicated her life to educating girls and to working toward a curriculum grounded in the profound history and experiences of Arab peoples. Her story should be essential reading for anyone who wants human understanding the Middle East or who questions limited images we in the U.S. have of what it could have meant live the life of an Arab woman in the 20th century.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  4. After reading “A Peace To End All Peace”, I was looking to read more about the lingering effects from World War One but not from Western eyes. This was an excellent book!

    This book is written from an Arabic point of view. I gained an appreciation for Arab peoples and their view on life and the world. It’s an embarrassment to come from Louisiana , home of the Congressman who proudly stated that we should arrest any one wearing a diaper on their head wrapped with a fan belt.

    If you want to gain a broader understanding about how we got to where we are today, read this book. News media in the west is pitiful. An informed public needs to have a solid understanding of what happened in the past before listening to media in the U.S.A. And this book gives a good balanced view from the Eastern perspective.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  5. I loved this book, which is both the personal memoir of a fascinating broad-minded accomplished woman educator and a political history of the forces riling her enlightened world. Her empathy for Jewish refugees and their children whom she educates in her cosmpolitan school is balanced against her knowledge of the plight of the Palestinian children, separated from family and land, whom she also educates and cares for. She worked for and longed for tolerance, acceptance, and the integration into a cosmopolitan life of people of all faiths and creeds; she watched the dream recede until it ended in Civil War in Lebanon, the expulsion of the Palestinians and a militarized Israeli state. Through it all, she found sustenance in music, in the accomplishments of her students, and of her own four children, in the stories of the people who lived in her mountain village, and in the beauty of the land. The world she loved and brings to life is a world all people of good will might love. With a foreword by her daughter and an afterword by her granddaughter, the reader also follows three generations of Arab women and comes to admire each.
    Rating: 5 / 5


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