For Sara Al Jarwan, the Sharjah International Book Fair has played a vital role in her development as a writer.
Sara Al Jarwan at the Sharjah International Book Fair
Recognised as being the first published female Emirati author, Sara Al Jarwan's most highly acclaimed work is Al Sultan Al Kitab Al Awwal, published in 2009, which follows a Bedouin family across the generations. Her books deal largely with themes relating to women and their status and place within society, topics that were once thought of as taboo.
Her career as a writer has not been a conventional one. A former member of the UAE Armed Forces, enrolling just before the first Gulf War in 1991, it was during her time in the army that she wrote her first piece, Yawmiyaat Mujannada (Diary of a Female Recruit) which appeared in the magazine Zahrat Al Khaleej. This was followed a play, then a novel called Shajan Bint Al Qadar Al Hazin (The Melancholy of the Daughter of a Sad Destiny), published in 1992.
A strong and deeply passionate woman, she is unafraid to venture into unpredictable or risky territory. Her most recent work, Udhraa' wa Wali wa Saahir (The Virgin, Saint and the Magician), is a collection of short stories from the emirates which, she says, includes stories that do not always get told. One of the main themes tackled is how one embarks on a journey of "purifying the soul".
"I try to shed light on issues that are like a darkness and through my hand I try to raise awareness. Sometimes you have to venture into areas that are unsafe, full of sadness, and to go into these areas is not an easy task. But it is something I have to do - to shed that light and make it a place full of hope."
A regular guest at the Sharjah International Book Fair during the past 15 of its 31-year history, for Al Jarwan the book fair holds special significance.
"My relationship with it runs very deep," she says. "Since my childhood, in fact. I used to love reading and my father, a poet, also encouraged us to read as much as we can. The book fair became as big as our dreams. The fair may have started very small but it has developed into something very strong."
She hopes one day her books will be translated into many languages and be available across the world, and it's through events such as the Sharjah book fair that her ambition could be realised.
This year at the fair, the focus is on her collection of short stories in Al Yaleema Ayqounat Al Hilm, which explores love, family, relationships and life in Emirati society.
"This is a very important book," she says. "When people read it, they will learn more about the Emirates - the life here, right down to the tiniest of details."
For more information, visit www.sharjahbookfair.com