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February 23, 1992|Charles Solomon

FIELDS OF FIG AND OLIVE: Ameera and Other Stories of the Middle East by Kathryn K. Abdul-Baki (Three Continents Press: $10). The most interesting stories in this collection by a writer of Arab-American ancestry offer insights into the cloistered world of Arabic women. Abdul-Baki describes life behind the veil, showing how women find means of expressing themselves in severely circumscribed settings. An aging matriarch prepares a favorite daughter-in-law to assume her position of power behind the throne in "The Marriage of Sima." In "The Lady," a surprising visit from an aged dancer enables a young Arab girl in Jerusalem to discover her grandfather's hidden past--and the greater freedom that women enjoy in other parts of the Middle East. Abdul-Baki's efforts to write from a male character's point of view and to describe other milieux seem less convincing.

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