Kahraman: The Bare Feet Belly Dancer
by Rima Jbara

"As a child, my body moved gently, like a leaf hit by the air."

This is the story of a young Egyptian girl whose ambition and drive propel her through adolescence and into adulthood. The attributes of kindness, responsibility, determination, and perseverance sustain the heroine as she achieves one success after another. Hardship and disappointment also play a role, but what drives this tale is an unremitting insistence to live life one’s own way.

Kahraman is a girl born into poverty. Raised by her grandmother, she never lacks love, affection, and support. Early in life, she becomes enamored with music and dance—her body able to portray a variety of emotions. So she decides to become a belly dancer, even though people in her neighborhood look down on such a profession. Auditioning at a popular club, she impresses the owners and is hired. Thus begins a career that will see her not only become a famous dancer, but also an accomplished movie actress. As her personal stardom builds, so too does her compassion—especially for children. The world then watches her become a generous benefactor to unfortunates—never knowing that she does so while hiding a secret that wounds her heart.

Jbara intersperses first-person reflections from Kahraman as her story unwinds. These contemplative ruminations flow in and out of the history of Kahraman’s career, as well as the highs and lows of romance, success, joy, and sorrow. The author’s writing is straightforward, mostly devoid of lyricism, yet occasionally memorable. This is a slim volume, heavy with the philosophy that each individual is responsible for charting his or her own course through life. Consider it short on length, but long on aspiration.

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