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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

The UAE Instagram account dedicated to celebrating literary inspiration

Curated by two regional bibliophiles, a relatively small but growing Instagram account lists the interesting dedications written by authors for their works

Event by Slavoj Zizek. Courtesy Noura Al Joaib and Noura Alzuabi / @DedicationLibrary
Event by Slavoj Zizek. Courtesy Noura Al Joaib and Noura Alzuabi / @DedicationLibrary

For Leo, who got hit on the head with a cricket bat.

For librarians.

For immigrant parents.

For curious kids everywhere.

For the American Fern Society and for plant hunters, birders, divers, stargazers, rock hounds, fossickers, amateur naturalists the world over.

For everyone with a red line under their name in Microsoft Word.

For Debbie, a virtuoso with the telephone whose voice we miss every day

For Karen, who knows why.

For anyone curious about the inspiration behind a good read, the job of finding the best dedications around just got easier thanks to two of the region’s self-confessed bookworms.

Between them, Noura Al Joaib and Noura Alzuabi have curated hundreds of tributes in what has become a charming collection featured on their Dedication Library (@dedicationlibrary) instagram account.

To Al Joaib, the best part of any book has always been the words that precede the story itself. “You know, we all have these little quirks or these little habits that we cultivate when it comes to reading,” she says.

“Some people read the last paragraph, some people do a lot of research. My favourite part of reading the book is the dedication. They are, more often than not, whimsical or quizzical,” says Al Joaib, who is from Dhahran in Saudi Arabia.

The small social media account has earned a devoted following since it began two years ago, and recently even caught the attention of renowned novelist, literary critic, and activist, Margaret Atwood.

“There’s something that grabs your attention and you keep wondering what the story behind it is, as opposed to just the story behind the book itself,” says Alzuabi, 26, who is from Abu Dhabi. “For us, they changed the way we see books, because it tells you more about the author.”

The pair met online through mutual friends, and when Alzuabi went to visit her relatives in Saudi Arabia’s Sharqiya, she contacted Al Joaib so they could meet in person.

“We just kind of got on instantly,” adds Alzuabi, who went on to say that they later decided to make an account for the dedications they had already shared with each other. They now receive weekly submissions.

“There are dedications I never would have expected would be beautiful, like from [romance writer] Danielle Steel, or [thriller writer] John Grisham, or authors that I normally wouldn’t be into,” admits Alzuabi.

Many give an insight into the author’s frame of mind during the arduous task of writing and publishing.

The majority honour parents, children or a spouse, but there is also gratitude to the obscure (organ donors) and the everyday (the honeysuckle on a grandparent’s walls). Even Sharjah gets a mention in the science fiction novel Binti, by American author Nnedi Okorafor. She writes:

“Dedicated to the little blue jellyfish

I saw swimming the Khalid Lagoon that sunny day

In Sharjah, United Arab Emirates”

Two things make a dedication stand out, according to the pair. First, it could refer to how the muse helped the writer. Secondly, it could hint at the contents or even be a clue to one of the book’s mystery, a common theme in children’s books.

J K Rowling does this in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, where the dedication is “split seven ways” for seven people, an important clue to one of the greatest mysteries of the Harry Potter series.

Alzuabi’s favourite dedications are penned by the fictional narrator Lemony Snicket in the children’s books, A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Each book begins with Lemony Snicket’s dedication to his lost love Beatrice: “darling, dearest, dead” whose identity and importance to the series is kept a secret. As Lemony Snicket writes:

“For Beatrice,

My love for you shall live forever. You, however, did not.”

“For Beatrice,

When we were together I felt breathless. Now, you are.”

“For Beatrice,

You will always be in my heart, in my mind, and in your grave.”

In whatever form they take, readers owe a lot to these muses. “They are the motivator behind the literary masterpiece, and there’s something about these people that made the writer want to put words down,” says Al Joaib, who began reading in earnest in grade eight after a teacher put her onto the 19th-century English author Jane Austen.

Both women work in the media – Al Joaib is an editorial manager at Destination Sharqiya magazine, and Alzuaibi works at the TV station Quest Arabia.

They both find indispensable comfort in books when they need to take a step back.

“Sometimes, I just need to stop everything and reach out for a book,” says Al Joaib.

“I instinctively reach out to a book when I feel overwhelmed, when I need to just disconnect and be on my own. They still have that power over me.”

Many gives insight into the author’s frame of mind during the arduous task of writing and publishing.

The majority honour parents, children or a spouse but there is also gratitude to the obscure (organ donors) and the everyday (the honeysuckle on a grandparent’s walls). Even Sharjah gets a mention in the science fiction novel Binti, by American author Nnedi Okorafor. She writes:

Dedicated to the little blue jellyfish

I saw swimming the Khalid Lagoon that sunny day

In Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Two things make a dedication stand out, according to the pair. First, it could refer to how the muse helped the writer. Secondly, it could hint at the contents or even be a clue to one of the book’s mystery, a common theme in children’s books.

JK Rowling does this in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, where the dedication is “split seven ways” for seven people, an important clue to one of the greatest mysteries of the Harry Potter series.

Alzuabi’s favourite dedications are penned by fictional narrator Lemony Snicket in the children’s books, A Series of Unfortunate Events. Each book begins with Lemony Snicket’s dedication to his lost love Beatrice, “darling, dearest, dead” whose identity and importance to the series is kept a secret. Lemony Snicket writes:

For Beatrice, My love for you shall live forever. You, however, did not.

For Beatrice, When we were together I felt breathless. Now, you are.For Beatrice, You will always be in my heart, in my mind, and in your grave.

In whatever form they take, readers owe a lot to these muses. “They are the motivator behind the literary masterpiece and there’s something about these people that made the writer want to put words down,” says Al Joaibi, who began reading in grade eight after an English teacher put her onto Jane Austen, who this year has been dead 200 years.

Both women work in media, Al Joaibi is an editorial manager at Destination Sharqiya magazine and Alzuaibi works at the TV station Quest Arabia, and find books an indispensable comfort when they need to take a step back.

“Sometimes I just need to stop everything and reach out to a book,” says Al Joaibi. “I instinctively reach out to a book when I feel overwhelmed, when I need to just disconnect and be on my own. They still have that power over me.”