Finest writings from the Middle East on contemporary issues “Tablet & Pen” is a literary masterpiece collection

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“Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East” is the perfect book to take with you on a vacation and relax and read through the collection of essays, either in order or selectively by title and topic. The book has 139 essays that address a chronological breakdown of Middle Eastern time periods. The 1910 to 1950, 1950 to 1980 and 1980 until today. Each is further broken up in to more selective decades that add real context to the writings.

Some of the essays in the anthology are well known and others are lesser known but powerful. It’s an inspirational collection that gives you some real insight into the Middle East, the Arab mind and the Muslim World. It’s a mix of Arab and non-Arab writings, mostly Muslim focused.

You could read it straight through as the writing talent is remarkable, of course. Or, you can do as I did and slowly pick and choose through the essays, re-reading many without boredom. The stories and tales are captivating and run the gamut from Palestine to Persia, Pakistan and Turkey. You get a sense of a common thread that rises above the religion, though, offering real insight in to everyday lives in each era.

This is one you will not want to rush through. You can read through it with interest driven by the detail and the eloquent writing styles of many of the essay authors. Much of the writing is translated from the native languages (Arabic, Turkish, Persian). Essays include writings by Khalil Gibran, Muhammad Iqbal, Forugh Farrokhzad, Yasar Kemal, Mahmoud Darwish, Adonis, Ahmad Shmaloo and Orhan Pamuk.

Edited by Reza Aslan, published by Norton & Co. in New York and London. 2011. 658 pp.

— Ray Hanania

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania