Head Above Water

Some reviews about my upcoming memoir, Head Above Water: Reflections on Illness are included here. I am so EXCITED and thrilled that so many people I love, admire, and look up to, decided to read my memoir. It is out May 30th, 2022. Available here:

Head Above Water

“Tenth century Arab poet Al-Mutanabbi said: على قدر أهل العزم تأتي العزائم, which roughly translated into “One’s strength shall be according to the measure of one’s desire.” The poet uses the phrase “Ahl al-Azm” for those who are empowered with persistence, resolve and determination. If we are lucky we would be amongst those who enjoy such traits and hopefully inspire others along the way by sharing our stories. Dr. Shahd Alshammari’s Head Above Water is one such account, beautifully written in an approachable tone. The book offers numerous anecdotes filled with trials and tribulations, historical narratives and childhood dreams, and above all human moments that remind us that wherever we lie on the spectrum of being fully able bodied human beings or significantly disabled we all share similar fears and more importantly hopes. For me, Dr. Alshammari embodies the strengths of Mutannabi’s Ahl al-Azm.”

Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi

Writer and lecturer, founder of Barjeel Art Foundation

“Shahd Alshammari’s Head above Water: Reflections on Illness is a welcome addition to the growing body of illness narratives. She conveys eloquently and candidly the randomness of her multiple sclerosis, communicating what it’s like to live in her body—Arab, female, disabled—and how her illness has shaped her education and her life as an academic. Her prose is at once lively and deadly serious, vividly somatic and deeply thoughtful, highly engaging. Her book succeeds at a difficult endeavor: narrating chronic illness without imposing a false narrative arc on that experience.”

G.T. Couser

Author of Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability, and Life Writing

“The core of this book lies in its intimate questioning of loneliness and disability. The soul is held captive by the body, but the body is also the finding place, the freeing place. Shahd Alshammari’s sensuous prose explores the manipulation of memory, the question of time, and gender politics. We are invited to reconsider the intricacies of love, the body, motherhood, the pervasive power of language, the power of women’s education, and the synergy between the Professor and the student. A brave book!”

Jokha AlHarthi

Author of Celestial Bodies, winner of Man Booker International Prize 2019. 

“Shahd Alshammari’s memoir of life with MS (Head Above Water: Reflections on Illness) is one of the first distinctly 21st century illness narratives. She situates chronic illness at the intersection of issues that include gender, exile, medical experimentation, and the politics of the Middle East. Her memoir becomes truly a dialogue, as her story fills with the voices of other women and men she has known, and how illness disrupted their lives. Reading her, I thought continually of Yeats’s famous line, “a terrible beauty is born.” In this book, illness is that terrible beauty, always affecting but never determining the author’s life.”

Arthur W. Frank, Ph.D.

Author of At the Will of the Body and The Wounded Storyteller

“An important piece of life writing – Shahd Alshammari’s Head Above Water breaks new ground in representing the lives of disabled Arab women. Exploring connections between the body, language, and culture, Alshammari’s new memoir is a sensitive and moving invitation to reconsider the stories that we are made of.”

Dr. Roxanne Douglas, University of Warwick

“Shahd AlShammari closes her eyes, gets closer to herself, and produces a breakthrough narrative on dealing with a chronic illness. Conversational in tone, yet candid and probing in nature, Head above Water fills a gap in disability narratives by Arab Women. At once, a sad story, on loss, death and the inability to cry; but also a story full of hope, love and appreciation for life and for friendship. Shahd defies death. The result is a sanguine memoir, more, on ability rather than disability, on wellness rather than illness.”

Dr. Nawar Al-Hassan Golley

Author of Reading Arab Women’s Autobiographies: Shahrazad Tells Her Story

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