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Breaking Free

By Nora Boustany
Friday, March 25, 2005; Page A16

Her poetry is her fuel.

It has carried her across boundaries assumed non-traversable: book signings and readings in mixed company at home in Saudi Arabia and abroad; the first publication in the United States of a collection of poems by a Saudi woman; uncontested exposure in the Saudi and American media.

Nimah Ismail Nawwab's entry into the public domain is a milestone of sorts, perhaps the gentle tipping of an hourglass that Saudi women have awaited for centuries. Her book of poems, "The Unfurling," published in the United States in December 2004, is not only an outlet for political frustrations in the desert kingdom but also is filled with a yearning to break free.

Nawwab's book of poetry is the first by a Saudi woman published in U.S. (File Photo)

Read Nora Boustany's previous Diplomatic Dispatches columns.

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"Thirteen-year-old girls, including my own, know exactly what they want to do: study abroad," she said over lunch in Washington last month. "Just the fact that I became the first woman to appear publicly at a book signing means there is some kind of a thaw in attitudes."

In her favorite poem, "The Longing," she articulates the suppressed desires and ambitions of Saudi women biding their time in a veiled existence.


How her spirit



Entices us all!


Will the time come

For my ideas to roam

Across this vast land's deserts,

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