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Tilt Kids Festival: Pearls on a Branch by Najla Khoury – Reading by Yasmine Al Massri

Award-winning actress Yasmine Al Massri brings to life traditional Syrian and Lebanese folktales, passed down through generations by women, and collected by Najla Khoury inPearls on a Branch: Tales from the Arab World Told by Women at the Tilt Kids Festival 2018.

Khoury originally published these tales in Arabic in 2014, having collected them as she traveled through Lebanon with a theater troupe during the country’s civil war from 1975 to 1990. In March 2018, Archipelago Books publishes a selection of these most popular tales, translated from Arabic by Inea Bushnaq.

“[T]hese tales are radiant with sunlight and flowers, jinns and spirits, palaces and sultans… the themes will resonate with anyone who loves fairy tales and folklore… An absolute delight for readers young and old.” —Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Cultural Services of the French Embassy

972 5th Ave, New York, NY

Sat, Mar. 10 at 11am

Ages 5 & up
60 min.

In partnership with the Consulate General of Lebanon in New York.

For more information, please visit:

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Review of Pearls on a Branch in Kirkus

Khoury originally published these 30 tales in Arabic in 2014, having collected them as she traveled through Lebanon with a puppet troupe during the country’s civil war from 1975 to 1990.The storytellers shared tales from their oral tradition with Khoury. Instead of a Western fairy tale’s promise of “Once upon a time,” these Arab tales begin with the charming, more realistic equivocation, “There was or there was not.” Yet Western readers will recognize the wicked stepmothers, princes in love with poor girls, plucky unloved children, sorcerers and talking animals. Rapunzel-like heroines grow up locked away from the world in stories like “The Girl Who Had No Name” and “Thuraya with the Long, Long Hair.” A huntsman substitutes animal blood for the blood of the Snow White-like damsel he’s hired to kill in both “Lady Tanageesh and the Eggs of the Tawawees” and “O Palace Beautiful! O Fancy Friend!” whose heroine sets up household with Ali Baba’s 40 thieves (instead of seven dwarfs) until an old woman shows up with a deadly apple. There’s an Aesop ring to animal fables like “Abu Ali the Fox,” about a fox taking birds under his protection until he gets hungry. However, the attention paid to bodily functions may startle Western readers. “A Cow Called Joukha” centers on farting, while a sweet romance centers on “The Singing Turd.” According to Khoury, in the oral tradition, “certain stories told by women were for women only.” Both proto-feminist innuendo—crafty women outwitting men—and sexual double-entendres abound. So “Jubayne the Fair” agrees to let an old man suck her finger whenever he wants until she wises up and runs away. And in the complex title story, a king rejects his only daughter because he mistakenly thinks she’s tried to trick him into bringing her a husband when he travels to Mecca; she seeks revenge on the young man who caused this disgrace through overt sexual trickery and bed-swapping. A funny, bawdy, occasionally gruesome, and decidedly adult collection that celebrates small cultural variations amid large universal values.