Beirut guide by LAU students launched this week
A bilingual book of essays written by LAU students during a course in travel writing by Jenine Abboushi has been released by Lebanese publisher.
Kazdoura Beirutiye – Beirut Guide for Beirutis was this Wednesday launched at a special reception at LAU’s Beirut campus. The book was produced by Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature Jenine Abboushi and her students, some of whom read from the book at the inauguration and signed it for the many who attended. The production of the book — an accumulation of essays written during a course in travel writing taught by Abboushi — was funded by the President’s Office and Student Affairs, and published by Lebanese publisher Dar al Adab.
“This is their first foray into publishing in English,” says Abboushi of Dar al Adab. The first edition of the book includes 16 articles written by eight students in both English and Arabic. “I’m delighted by their support and looking forward to publishing an Arabic-French edition soon.”
“Beirut is a forever rambling, noisy, beautiful, vulgar, exciting, obnoxious, and remarkable construction site, in both material and social terms,” says Abboushi in the prologue to the book. “This guide attempts to navigate and even shape that.”
The stories are as diverse as the city, and feature a communist bar, a cemetery and a hippodrome as well as public transport vans, gaming cafés, and various public spaces.
“It was a very interesting course to take,” says communication arts graduate Yara Nahle of the travel writing course during which the students penned the stories. “It was between journalism and literature, so we were encouraged to express our own thoughts and experiences and not only interview others for theirs.”
Currently a writer for an online publication, Nahle, who also translated all the stories for the book, is delighted to have two of hers in print. “It’s not just an article, it’s part of a book, something tangible that is more real and will last,” she says.
Also delighted at having his story published is recent graduate Yahia Cheiato, whose story details the many gaming cafés dotted across the city but rarely noticed. “Having my work published is great. I’m young and it’s a nice feeling to know that your hard work pays off. I can always come back to this book for motivation.”
Cheiato wrote many articles during Abboushi’s course, which he selected as an elective during his time as a student of the English program. “People think of travel writing as outside the country, but Jenine had a twist about it, and made us rediscover the city we call home.”
Although Nahle had often travelled on Beirut’s notorious van number 4, she revisited it with fresh eyes in order to write about it. The result is both humorous and educational. “That van is a microcosm of Lebanon. The public space and interaction that take place in van number 4 are reflective of the social dynamics in Beirut.”
That, says Abboushi is at the heart of the publication’s vision. “The book is but a part of a larger project, an ongoing one, that seeks to develop a critical perspective, creativity, social awareness, and civic engagement by sending young people to where they don’t belong — to explore and write.”
Dar al Adab will be hosting a blog under the same name as the book, explains Abboushi, and inviting all writers to submit essays and photographs. “We’re also hoping this will lead to similar projects across the region, like a Tunis guide for Tunisians, and so on.”
Vice President for Student Development & Enrollment Management Elise Salem is equally enthusiastic. “This wonderful project inspired students to see their city in a new light and to capture it in writing. It’s a perfect example of meaningful writing; writing that changes young writers and hence the world they live in. I hope we see more projects of this nature at LAU.”
The book was inaugurated at a ceremony at the Riyad Nassar Library Lounge at LAU’s Beirut campus on Wednesday.
Another event will be held at BEYt Amir in Clemenceau on Saturday, October 28 at 4:00 p.m. Pass by either event to pick up a copy of the book and learn more about participating in the project.