Head Above Water

Reflections on Illness

Shahd Alshammari

Engaging and enriching understanding of illness and disability, written by an author who lives with Multiple Sclerosis and has experienced living with disability herself.
Publication date:
May 2022
Publisher :
Neem Tree Press
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781911107392

Dimensions : 203 X 127 mm
Available in 3-4 weeks
ISBN : 9781911107408

Dimensions : 198 X 129 mm
Available in 3-4 weeks


• Engaging and enriching understanding of illness and disability
• Author lives with Multiple Sclerosis and has experienced living with disability herself
• The book deals with relationships and discrimination in the context of disability
• Deals with topical issues like women's bodies, women's health issues, identities, family, friendships, cultural taboos; misogyny; Middle Eastern culture
• Provides a greater understanding of the Arab world and illness in the Middle East
• Emphasizes the importance of human connection and each of our personal stories
• The book is suitable for the Barbellion Prize dedicated to the furtherance of ill and disabled voices in writing

Head Above Water takes us into a space of intimate conversations on illness and society's stigmatization of disabled bodies. We are invited in to ask the big questions about life, loss, and the place of the other. The narrative builds a bridge that reminds us of our common humanity and weaves the threads that tie us all together. Through conversations about women's identities, bodies, and our journeys through life, we arrive at a politics of love, survival, and hope.


A necessary and beautiful account of life with a sometimes-invisible and unpredictable disability, complicated by both patriarchy and racism, as well as a professor's love letter to the act of teaching and being taught.
Marcia Lynx Qualey, @Arablit

"Head above Water fills a gap in disability narratives by Arab Women. At once, a sad story, on loss, death and the inability to cry; but also a story full of hope, love and appreciation for life and for friendship … The result is a sanguine memoir, more, on ability rather than disability, on wellness rather than illness.”
Dr. Nawar Al-Hassan Golley, author of Reading Arab Women's Autobiographies

"Beautifully written in an approachable tone. The book offers numerous anecdotes filled with trials and tribulations, historical narratives and childhood dreams, and above all human moments that remind us that wherever we lie on the spectrum of being fully able bodied human beings or significantly disabled, we all share similar fears and more importantly hopes.
Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, writer and lecturer, founder of Barjeel Art Foundation

Alshammari's memoir breaks new ground in representing the lives of disabled Arab women. Exploring connections between the body, language, and culture … [it] is a sensitive and moving invitation to reconsider the stories that we are made of.
Dr. Roxanne Douglas, University of Warwick

"Alshammari's memoir of life with MS is one of the first distinctly 21st century illness narratives. She situates chronic illness at the intersection of issues that include gender, exile, medical experimentation, and the politics of the Middle East.”
Arthur W. Frank, Ph.D. Author of At the Will of the Body and The Wounded Storyteller

"[Alshammari] conveys eloquently and candidly the randomness of her multiple sclerosis, communicating what it's like to live in her body - Arab, female, disabled - and how her illness has shaped her education and her life as an academic. [Her] prose is at once lively and deadly serious, vividly somatic and deeply thoughtful, highly engaging.”
G.T. Couser, author of Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability, and Life WritingG.T. Couser, author of Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability, and Life Writing

"The core of this book lies in its intimate questioning of loneliness and disability … Shahd Alshammari's sensuous prose explores the manipulation of memory, the question of time, and gender politics … It is a brave book.”
Jokha Alharthi Omani author of Celestial bodies, winner of the International Man Booker Prize (2019)