Country Focus: Jordan (Al Urdan in Arabic)
Honor Lost: Love and Death in Modern-Day Jordan
by Norma Khouri
Originally published: Random House, 2003
My edition: Washington Square Press, 2004. 219 pgs.
Hoax Revealed!: In 2004, The Sydney Morning Herald unmasked Norma Khouri’s “memoir” as a literary hoax. The Jordanian National Association for Women initiated the investigation into Khouri’s background and notified Random House that they found her account questionable. After speaking with Khouri’s mother, brother and best friend (who all live in Chicago), the Herald‘s literary editor Malcolm Knox unveiled Khouri’s “memoir” to be a sham.
Knox discovered that Khouri only lived in Jordan until age three, at which time she and her family moved to Chicago. Khouri was a Chicago resident during the time that she claimed Dalia’s honor killing occurred. Dalia never existed.
Although Khouri created the character Dalia out of her own imagination, millions of women throughout the world live under the threat of honor killings. For more information on this topic, read these articles from Human Rights Watch and about Rana Husseini, a senior reporter at The Jordan Times who has spent her career covering and crusading against honor crimes.
I came across Honor Lost in a used bookstore and decided to buy it because I had no other leads for books by or about Jordanians and I wanted to find out more about honor killings. I trusted that Khouri’s memoir depicted the truth. On the cover and opening pages, blurbs from Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal extoll Honor Lost. In my edition of the book, the publisher Washington Square Press includes a Readers Club Guide “A Conversation with Norma Khouri” and “Honor Lost Discussion Questions.” A heartfelt dedication to Dalia from Khouri sits like a paper tombstone at the end of the book.
If I had not needed to do research for this blog, I would not have googled Norma Khouri and would have believed that all of the events in this book really happened. What an eye-opener! I don’t want to represent Jordan with a fraudulent author and plan on re-visiting this country after finding a non-bogus book.
Next up: Graceland by Chris Abani (Nigeria)