Courtesy of the Davis Family Library
Literatures and cultures librarian Katrina Spencer is liaison to the Anderson Freeman Center, the Arabic department, the French department, the Gender Sexuality & Feminist Studies (GSFS Program), the Language Schools, Linguistics and the Spanish & Portuguese departments. These affiliations are reflected in her reading choices. “While I am a very slow reader, I’m a very critical reader,” she says.
“My Mom Loves Fatoush” is a children’s story that recounts one of the ways in which a Levantine family gathers to spend intimate time together. The story is beautifully illustrated, featuring full-color drawings of the narrator’s family. The work is short, although its brevity should not be automatically equated with simplicity. For novice learners of Arabic like myself, the opportunity to read a children’s story with vowelled consonants and extraordinary visual aids is valuable, as texts for advanced readers are less likely to have diacritics written in for vowel pronunciation or any illustrations at all. What’s more, the reader will serendipitously encounter a recipe for fatoush, a bread salad dressed with lemon juice, when paging through the book.
Back when I was studying at the University of Illinois, I took Arabic for two semesters and my instructor, Fahima, gave students the healthy challenge of reading this story out loud and recording it as an extra credit assignment. I struggled so much so that I had to record it twice. In the process, I learned new vocabulary for food and sequencing that was only partially introduced in my textbook. This work will always hold a special place in my heart since it was the first book I read in a non-Romanized script, something I never expected to do.
Rating: 5/5 cardigans