Tobie Nathan’s panoramic novel about Jews and Muslims (and Christians) in early twentieth-century Egypt, A Land Like You, revolves around one central image: two infants—one Jewish, one Muslim; one male, one female—peacefully nursing at the breasts of a young Muslim woman, Oum Jinane (“Mother Paradise”).
After the birth of her long-desired daughter Masreya (“The Egyptian Woman”), Jinane travels from her poor Muslim neighborhood to a poor Jewish neighborhood to help another young mother whose long-desired infant son is languishing because she has no milk. “It’s a miracle, a great miracle,” the Jewish boy’s relatives declare:
Never had any neighborhood in Cairo been so excited by a baby’s nursing. Until bedtime, the child nursed three more times at the breasts of abundance. He took hold of one nipple, little Masreya another, and the two children’s hands sometimes touched. You would have thought they were two lovers entering Paradise as they held each other’s hands.
Continue reading “To Nurse at the Same Breasts: Muslim-Jewish Kinship in Literature and Life by Joyce Zonana”