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Lecturer at an American University: Khalifa’s no knives is “the best piece of literature I’ve had the chance to read in the last 6 months”

rp_ThereAreNoKnives-188x300-1.pngIn her blog [1] lecturer Ashleen Williams explains why she has adopted Khalifa’s book in her class:

This fall I’ll be assigning No Knives in the Kitchens of this City  [2]by Khaled Khalifa for Honors 101 – “Self, Society and Identity.”

This is probably the best piece of literature I’ve had the chance to read in the last 6 or so months, and in my quest to assign my students readings from outside a western perspective, this is the obvious choice.

My hope in assigning Khalifa’s book is that they begin to open themselves up, if even in the smallest ways, to the Syrian experience, and the reality of living under a brutal dictatorship for decades. I’ve noticed in two semesters of teaching that as much as they want to believe they’re sympathetic to refugees and aware of the Syrian crisis, there is still the tendency to lay blame and create an “other” that justifies a refugee ban.

This novel isn’t linear, and it isn’t easy – you have to give yourself over to the experience. Perhaps its easier to grasp if you’ve lived the parallel lives described by Khalifa to preserve your sanity, but university life isn’t supposed to be about easily tangible concepts and ideas – we are meant to challenge our young citizen scholars.


Ashleen Williams in currently a Barksdale Fellow at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi. At the SMBHC, she teaches freshmen seminars (honors 101, 102), Issues in Peace and Conflict Studies, Religion and Politics of the Gulf, and GCC Security and Politics after the 2003 cold war.

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