The Syrian Ladies Benevolent Society

Christine Estima

House of Anansi Press

The Syrian Ladies Benevolent Society

Christine Estima

House of Anansi Press

Indelible linked stories centred around Azurée, a young Arab woman living in the echoes of her ancestors’ voices.

Masterfully tracing the deep roots of the Arab immigrant experience, these interlocking stories follow an Arab family as they flee the Middle East in the nineteenth century, settle in Montreal in the twentieth, and face the collision between tradition and modernity in the twenty-first. This family includes trailblazing Lebanese freedom fighters, undercover operatives in World War II, and brave Syrian refugees trying to find their place in Canadian society. This line of daring women culminates in Azurée.

As a young Arab woman living in the wake of her family’s histories, Azurée contends with all the meanings of her blood—ethnicity and lineage, sexuality and menstruation, pain and death. Over the years, through many romantic entanglements, Azurée journeys from teen mallrat to searching student to troubled traveller, until she finally stands in her ancestral home ready to confront her past—and her future.

With imaginative aplomb and abiding passion, the unforgettable connected stories in The Syrian Ladies Benevolent Society explore love and suspicion, trust and betrayal, faith and despair, war and displacement in an explosive debut collection that pushes the expectations for Arab women beyond conventions, beliefs, and borders.

photo of Christine Estima
Christine Estima is an Arab woman of mixed ethnicity (Lebanese, Syrian and Portuguese) whose essays and short stories have appeared in the New York Times, the Walrus, VICE, the Globe and Mail, Chatelaine, Maisonneuve and many more. She was shortlisted for the 2018 Allan Slaight Prize for Journalism, longlisted for the 2015 CBC Canada Writes Creative Nonfiction prize, and a finalist for the 2011 Writers’ Union of Canada short prose competition.

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