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Zahra on Substack

Zahra Barri


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Zahra’s first attempt at writing a novel received the Runner Up Unpublished Award in the Comedy Women in Print Prize 2020.

Her prize was a scholarship to study an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Hertfordshire. She completed her Masters in 2021 with Distinction and is now doing a PhD in Creative Writing.

In 2023 she wrote her novel Daughters of the Nile which won the Unbound Firsts 2024 Writers of Colour Award and is due to be published by Unbound in June 2024.

Set in Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and England from 1940-2012, Daughters of the Nile charts three generations of Egyptian women. We begin in Cairo with the matriarch, Fatiha Bin-Khalid's growing friendship with Muslim feminist Doria Shafik as they fight for women’s rights before moving to Tehran where the sexually shamed Yasminah flees with her bisexual boyfriend, and then finally to London in 2012 as British-born Nadia battles alcoholism, toxic masculinity, identity crises and a severe case of herpes.

These women are no strangers to adversity: they've had to overcome revolutions, military coups, misogyny, and prejudice just to live their lives. And yet throughout history they seem to be repeating each other's mistakes, creating the perfect cycle of self-destruction.

It is Nadia, the youngest and most rebellious, who must relearn shame and shamelessness to radically change the future of the Bin-Khalid family.

Daughters of the Nile is an astute examination of the enduring strength of female bonds, and what we inherit when we move between lifelines and continents. Original and darkly funny, it's a must-read for fans of Sheena Patel's I'm a Fan, Tara M. Stringfellow's multi-faceted Memphis and Leïla Slimani's insightful non-fiction debut, Sex and Lies.

Barri has brought legendary Egyptian feminist Doria Shafik to life in these pages and shone a light on an integral part of modern Egyptian political history that receives little airtime.
Yousra Imran, journalist and author of Hijab and Red Lipstick
The kind of representation that is so sorely needed and currently still very lacking. Authentic, funny and wholly relatable. I can't wait for everyone to read this!
Alya Mooro, bestselling author of The Greater Freedom: Life as a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the Stereotypes
An original, hilarious and deeply thought out story of three Egyptian women from one family navigating patriarchy, family expectations, sexual identity, secrets, revolutions, censorship and much more across three timelines. An assured, intelligent debut.
Zeba Talkhani, author of My Past Is a Foreign Country
Hilarious and heartwarming, a triumph! A glorious celebration of women.
Sadia Azmat, comedian and author of Sex Bomb
Original, compelling, witty and historically illuminating - hilarious and essential reading.
Helen Lederer, comedian
an exciting new voice in fiction
Aliya Gulamani Commissioning Editor Unbound