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Unknown Past


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Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Layla Murad?
1. The Schoolgirl: Making Layla Murad
2. The Country Girl: Branding Layla Murad
3. Adam and Eve: Interfaith Family, Fame, and Gossip
4. The Blow of Fate: The Politics of Boycotting Israel
5. The Unknown Lover: Layla Murad and the Free Officer
6. The Starling of the Valley: Remembering Layla Murad
Conclusion: Can an Egyptian Be a Single Mother and a Jew?

About the Author

Hanan Hammad is Associate Professor and Director of Middle East Studies at Texas Christian University. She is the author of Industrial Sexuality: Gender, Urbanization, and Social Transformation in Egypt (2016), which won prizes from the National Women's Studies Association, the Association for Middle East Women's Studies, and the Arab American Book Awards.


"A fascinating and fun read, Unknown Past carefully documents Layla's story, fills voids, and makes important interventions into debates on her life and legacy. Just as Layla's life was bigger than the screen, this book goes beyond the history of cinema to illuminate questions about religion, society, gender, and politics."-Beth Baron, The Graduate Center and City College, City University of New York, author of The Orphan Scandal
"Bringing together biography and history, Unknown Past examines transformations in midcentury Egypt through the life of the hugely popular Layla Murad. Unraveling rumors and debunking myths, Hanan Hammad draws attention to the social pressures Murad faced as a working woman, as a Jew, as a wife, and as a mother."-Deborah Starr, Cornell University, author of Togo Mizrahi and the Making of Egyptian Cinema
"Unknown Past is meticulously researched and vividly written. Hanan Hammad unpacks, in a careful, clear-headed, and brave manner, all the myths surrounding Egypt's beloved star Layla Murad, from her career's entanglement in the Arab-Israel conflict to her premature retirement. An essential read."-Ted Swedenburg, University of Arkansas, editor of Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture
"Unknown Past: Layla Murad, the Jewish-Muslim Star of Egypt is a descriptively compelling and detailed account of the life and work of a culturally, artistically, and politically influential Egyptian woman through modern Egypt's complicated and perilous times. A consummate work of impeccable scholarship, no Egyptian Cinema or 20th Century Egyptian Biography collection would be complete or comprehensive without the inclusion of a copy of Unknown Past." -Julie Summers, Reviewer's Bookwatch
"This is the kind of book any aspiring scholar should want to write at least once during their career: Hammad both lucidly engages relevant academic literature and tells a fascinating story for nonspecialist readers new to one of the dizzying number of disciplines into which she intervenes."-Abe Silberstein, Cineaste
"[Unknown Past is] a story not only about religion and ethnicity in the Arab world, but also one about how being female can amplify the effects of being a minority in a society that is not as 'modern' as it prides itself on being."-Lauren Hakimi, The Forward

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