Emily Nasrallah
Source: AUB

As the international community mourned the death of British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, the people of Lebanon woke up to the loss of their very own trailblazer: Emily Nasrallah. 

The renowned Lebanese writer, journalist, women's rights activist, and mother of four reportedly passed away on Wednesday morning at the age of 87, according to Al Jadeed.

In addition to novels, essays, and volumes of short stories for adults, the award-winning author has published seven children's books. Her writing mainly focuses on themes such as family, village life, and women's rights.

On the day of her passing, we pay tribute to Nasrallah's inspiring career and everlasting legacy:

1. She beat the odds to pursue education

Born in 1931 in the village of Al-Kfeir in southern Lebanon, Nasrallah attended the village's public school, which only offered classes until third grade. She was thus forced to repeat the grade three times until she found a way to finance her education. 

Nasrallah wrote a letter to her uncle in the United States, who agreed to pay her secondary education tuition fees at the Shoueifat National College, making her the first girl in Al-Kfeir to live and study outside the village.

2. She graduated from AUB

Nasrallah went on to graduate with a BA in Education from the American University of Beirut. 

To fund her university education, Nasrallah worked as a journalist at the women's magazine Sawt al Mar'a (Voice of the Woman) and the political magazine Al Sayyad, and she also worked as a teacher. 

3. She has won several awards, both regionally and internationally

Among several other awards, such as the Saeed Akl Prize and the Khalil Gibran Prize, she has been granted the 2017 Goethe Medal award as part of the "Language is the Key" theme.

The award is offered by the Federal Republic of Germany to honor figures who take a courageous stance on subjects tabooed in their societies.

"In her works written for adults and children, she has found a poetic language to describe everyday life in war-torn Lebanon," the Goethe institute wrote at the time. 

In February 2018, Lebanese President Michel Aoun awarded her the Cedar Medal of Honor - Commander Rank in recognition of her literary contributions.

Back in 1998, her book, A Cat's Diary, made it to the IBBY Honour Lista section of outstanding books by the Switzerland-based non-profit organization.

Nasrallah has also participated as a panelist or lecturer in several literary festivals and conferences, such as the 1988 International Olympics Authors Festival in Canada.

4. Her book "Tuyur Aylul" has won three prestigious literary prizes

Nasrallah's debut novel, Touyour Ayloul (Birds of September), which was published in 1962, received three Arabic literary awards and is now considered an Arabic literature classic. 

The book, which has been translated into several languages, revolves around villagers who witness their loved ones depart to more promising lands, just like birds migrate in September. 

5. She championed women's rights

In her writings, Nasrallah has shed light on the injustice women are subject to, telling the stories of women who fought for equality and encountered societal restraints. 

"I wanted women to be equal to men. I lived, I grew from a peasant woman in the fields to elite schools, and I saw that women can advance," she is quoted as saying.

Her work has thus inspired many young women in the country, such as one Twitter user who wrote that Nasrallah's work influenced her "to think more about the position of women and eventually become a feminist."

Rest in power, Ms. Nasrallah.