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Arab Spring Dreams: The Next Generation Speaks Out for Freedom and Justice from North Africa to Iran Paperback – May 8, 2012

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Spring Books
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See our editors' picks for the books you'll want to read this season, from blockbusters and biographies to new fiction and children's books.

Editorial Reviews


The genesis of this lean essay anthology actually preceded the protests in Tunis and Cairo by more than five years…Many of those visions now appear prescient…Arab Spring Dreams is a powerful boost for young people in the Middle East who seek to lift the curtain of obscurantism from a region desperate for daylight. (Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs)

. . . Immediate and raw, the essays in this collection provide glimpses of daily life in countries where civil rights do not exist. Though the essay contest seemed like a quixotic gesture at its inception in 2005, it turns out to have been prescient. (Publishers Weekly)

You are now holding an exceptional book. It is particularly now when the eyes of the whole world are anxiously set on the Middle East that I am so eagerly looking forward to getting to know the stories which often do not make themselves heard among the brouhaha in the media. The essays collected here are a particularly important testimony and close to my heart as they are written by young courageous people who dare to dream of the things their parents never dreamt of. The book clearly demonstrates that no matter where we live or what religion we follow, certain fundamental values are universal. (Lech Walesa, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and the former President of Poland)

This is a wonderful book, and a stirring testament to the truth that the desire for freedom and democracy transcends the boundaries of nationalities, religion, ethnicity, race and gender. (Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran)

For too long, American readers have looked to unreliable intermediaries to learn what's on the minds of the Arab youth. But now two of the most promising young thinkers from the region have offered up a gem, Arab Spring Dreams, giving us access to their generation's most authentic voices. To further their worthy plight for freedom, let us begin by lending an ear to their moving narratives. (Roya Hakakian, author of Journey from the Land of No and Assassins of the Turquoise Palace)

Arab Spring Dreams offers a compelling journey through the hearts, minds and souls of the generation that rocked the world's most repressive region. A first-hand account of the struggle for democracy in the Middle East, and a terrific roller coaster of burning frustrations and passionate aspirations. Buckle up! (Ahmed Benchemsi, Stanford University Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law)

Sohrab Ahmari and Nasser Weddady have assembled a chorus of new voices from across the Arab and Iranian Middle East, and all of the voices are young, and all of them are plaintive. Not everyone among the contributors to this anthology sees things the same way, but everyone is filled with yearning for a better future, and the yearning is touching. Will the better future come about? One thing is certain: a better future for the Middle East and for the larger world will come about only if people from different corners of the world do a better job of speaking to one another. Arab Spring Dreams contributes to that noble cause. And Ahmari and Weddady are writers to watch. (Paul Berman, author of Terror and Liberalism and The Flight of the Intellectuals)

About the Author

Nasser Weddady is the Civil Rights Outreach Director of the American Islamic Congress. He helped design and administer the "Dream Deferred" essay contest, and has helped lead several high-profile campaigns to free imprisoned dissidents in North Africa, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and beyond.

Sohrab Ahmari is an Iranian-American journalist. His columns, feature stories, and reviews have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, The New Republic, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, among others.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; Original edition (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230115926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230115927
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,127,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Behnam Safavi on August 8, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a testament to the unquenchable desire for freer atmospheres across the Middle East. The selected essays reflect strong idealism, but it is not without practicality--having endured more than enough injustice in their short lives, all the young authors seem to reach a tacit consensus that the road to change is fraught with peril and cannot be traversed overnight.

What I found most compelling about the book was the diversity of the featured essayists, which inevitably leads to a wide variety of experiences and tales that need telling. You have Arabs and Persians, Amazighs and black Africans, Sunnis and Baha'is, artists and writers, the faithful and the inquisitive. The muted voice of the gay Arab population is also well-represented in this anthology, and theirs are among the most poignant stories in the collection.

"Arab Spring Dreams" is, indeed, a brilliantly comprehensive sample of the complex social strata that comprise the Middle East and is a clear window into the minds of its contemporary youth.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ezra on June 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
I read this book at my college library - some intelligent librarian had put it in one of the "featured" displays. I thought it was amazing, and I didn't put it down until I'd read it all. Consequently, I didn't finish studying, but that's another story. Read it, now!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tander on January 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a good book and provides perspective from the minds of young adults/teenagers. They are short essays, so there is a lot of breadth which is great, but not as much depth because it is just a few pages from each writer. I would recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Deb Nam-Krane VINE VOICE on May 13, 2013
Format: Paperback
Don't let the name fool you- the essays in Arab Spring Dreams were written before the Arab Spring began. However, the young writers of these essays are the immediate precursors of the Arab Spring Revolutionaries, and by the end of the book you're going to ask yourself not how the uprisings began in the first place but why they didn't begin much sooner- and in more places.

All of the essays were written by people in the Middle East and North Africa under the age of 30 and were submitted for the "Dream Deferred Essay Contest on Civil Rights in the Middle East", sponsored by the American Islamic Congress (AIC). The contest is the brainchild of Syrian dissident Ammar Abdulhamid, who lamented that young people were given incentives to radicalize for religious extremists, but that young liberals in that region didn't have the same opportunities to organize. This contest is in part a means to open those avenues.

What unites all of the essays is the recognition of the writers that the world they inhabit is cheating them of something that should be theirs. Some of the essays touch on the larger problems: Female Genital Mutilation, Homophobia and institutionalized Sexism. But the ones that I found particularly touching were about the small, daily grievances. Those of us who can drive may think it's annoying but quaint that women in Saudi Arabia aren't allowed to- until we are told that this often means that boys of 11 or 12 become chauffeurs for the women in their family. For those of us who aren't religious, the differences between Sunni and Shia observance may seem at best academic- until we read how those differences becomes the bases for childhood taunts and adult arrests.
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