Through his extensive use of primary resources, the author provides concrete evidence against the assumption that May never tackled any political issues. He looks at her letters, articles and speeches to examine her opinions on nationalism, Syria and Egypt. In many instances she spoke of a divided land, and the search for identity. Her thoughts on the Syrian revolution and the role of theFrench in it were very passionate. She criticized the policies of the French generals saying that ‘they thought Syria was a small France’ (70) instead of studying the true nature of the country.
May advocated an enlightened modern nationalism, yet in her essays she could sometimes favor harmonious relationships between the sects rather than remain steadfast in a secular nationalist vein. In her address to the Muslims of Damascus in the course of the Great Syrian Revolution, for example, there was an apparent contradiction between her appeal to the Druze community and her usual nationalist outlook; this the author attributes to her humane call for nonviolence. Her rapprochement with the nationalist thought emerging at the time is also evident in her criticisms of the creation of Lebanon on a sectarian basis. Her Syrian identity, , was very much evident in her writings, similarly to many authors from her time. During her years in Egypt, she always referred to herself as a Syrian from the homeland Syria. And when she became aware of the rise in Egyptian nationalism, her speeches and writing began to bear reference to the friendliness between Egypt and Syria.
Her long years in Egypt, and her close connections with the Syrian community in the country never prevented her from delving into the issues of the rising Egyptian nationalism. She proposed conceptual refinements to the slogans of the Egyptian national movement such as her criticism of the popular phrase ‘Egypt for the Egyptians’ (Maser lil Masriyeen). Instead of ‘Egypt for the Egyptians’, she preferred the phrase ‘Egyptian Egypt’. This approach could be compared to that of Antoun Saadeh and his refinement of the slogan ‘Syria is for the Syrians’.
Through Mujais’ extensive research, we have surprising findings concerning her relationship with Khalil Gibran. While it is commonly thought that the two shared a strong emotional bond, Mujais portrays a May whowas not so taken by Gibran’s works. While she praises his switch to the English language as a change that allowed the essence of his work to reach its maturity, she still criticized the self-centered trend that characterized his later writings. She wonders why Gibran never cites or derives inspiration from other authors. She also cites his books such as ‘The Prophet’ and ‘Jesus the Son of Man’ to draw attention on the fact that the voice of only one character is heard throughout. Mujais also offers a critical analysis of the emotional relationship between Gibran and May and tackles the common misconceptions previously advanced by other authors.
This is in contrast to an earlier chapter where the author looks into her relationship with Yaacoub Sarrouf, which had a more powerful bond based on the similarities of their intellectual interests and preferences. She admired his views on the empowerment of women and was very much influenced by his thoughts. Mujais exemplifies this with the text of the emotional eulogy she wrote upon his death.
Other themes covered in this comprehensive book are her encounters with Western culture and her importance in outlining a new era in the life of the Arab woman, one that is well-engaged in culture, literature and the public sphere. The tracking of her intellectual growth in organized and orderly chapters offers an extensive introduction into the life of May for the first time readers, and an in-depth analysis of her thoughts for those looking to further their knowledge of her.