Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lebanese book launch at DIFC

Dania El-Kadi
The Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) was transformed into a literary fest on Friday (March 18) for the launch of Lebanese writer Dania El-Kadi’s debut novel, Summer Blast.

The novel hits the shelves this week after its launch at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair on March 17, in Dubai on March 18 and in Beirut on March 24.

Dania, known as @Lebanese_Writer on Twitter, was last in Dubai in August last year, and it was a good occasion to get to know yet another virtual friend through a tweetup (see “It’s good to meet,” August 8, 2010).

On her blog Lebanese Writer, Dania describes herself as a “marketing manager in London and debut writer of women's fiction.” She is also “passionate about Lebanon, writing, conservation, women issues and technology. Madly in love with a city called Dubai.”

Summer Blast… When War Threatens Lebanese Women’s Plans, is a 242-page novel published by Beirut-based publishing and distribution house Turning Point.

The gist of the book -- not to give too much away -- is that “three go-getting feisty Lebanese women are caught up in the 2006 Lebanon War which causes their well laid plans for the summer to go offtrack. Rouba wants a divorce but her husband is playing hard to leave. Elyssar earns herself an emergency evacuation out of Beirut, courtesy of her high-powered job. She is determined to see through her childhood dream of seeing Madonna perform, but is nearly sidetracked by her adult dream come-true-man. Maya’s dream wedding plans look like they are going South, which incidentally is where the brunt of the war campaign is being waged.”

Dania and Dina Dabbous
I will be starting my dedicated book to find out “which dreams will be shattered and which realized?” It seems, “these women will not compromise their choices or convictions, nor commitments to cousins, friends and country or even a sense of humor that keeps them all going through the worst of it!”

The plot is supposed to be “pulsating with the relentless rhythm of bombardments, the heat of summer, the beat of romance, and the constancy of female bonds between cousins and friends.”

Dania with Trude Gajland
Nibal Khodr and Marco Azar
Rima Abou Alwan, Dania and Dina
Mirna Azar, Dania and Dina
Vivian Constantine and Dania
Charlotte Hamaoui and Brigitta Boufarah
These bonds were in evidence at Dania’s book signing, which fittingly took place at the newly-opened DIFC branch of cupcake supremo Kitsch. Cousins, relatives, friends and fans were all at hand to congratulate Dania and get their copies of Summer Blast dedicated and signed, as I did mine. Among them too were some ladies who inspired some of the characters in the book, including Mirna Azar and Rima Abou Alwan. Present too was Dania’s sister Nibal Khodr and the children’s book author Diala Talhouk. Dalia has written six books -- Hikayat Malika, Yawmiyat Namla and four on the Adventures of Aziz.

Kitsch's Dalia Dogmoch
Kitsch co-founder Dalia Dogmoch laid out some delicious and admirable mini-cupcakes for the gathering to enjoy.

Also on the book launch tour with Dania is Charlotte Hamaoui, Turning Point’s managing director and book editor Dina Dabbous, who has now moved to Amman to join Al Bawaba, a portal for Middle East news and information.

Dania was born in the US and raised in Beirut. Her father’s career in the military also took her to Belgium as a teenager. She studied History at the American University of Beirut (AUB) before taking up jobs in the technology sector across Kuwait, Lebanon, Dubai and more recently London – including roles with multinational corporations such as Intel and Nokia.

Dania and Diala Talhouk
The dedication to Diala
Dania’s short novel, Un Chemin Sur Son Front, was published in Paris by Editions Caractères in 2000. Her short story, Trophy Wife, will be published in the “Words to Music” anthropology. She has also contributed articles to leading Arab dailies.

The author, who now lives in London, points out in the acknowledgments that she couldn’t have finished the book without her husband Hani’s support. He put up with her working on the edits, even during their honeymoon!

Turning Point, Dania’s publishers, with an ever-growing list of titles, have built up great expertise and knowledge of publishing and can draw on a pool of talented Lebanese writers, graphic designers, photographers, artists, editors and printers to consistently release first-rate material. After 10 years in business, they are breaking ground in 2011 by publishing their first novel, Summer Blast, and their first “blook” (a blog converted into a book, Life as a Leb-neh Lover).

Dania signing my copy of Summer Blast
Summer Blast is available at Virgin in Dubai (Dhs. 70) and Beirut (LL. 25,000 or $17) and can be ordered abroad through UK distributors Marston Book Services.

Good luck Dania!

And here, in pictures, is how the book signing went.

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