Seven amazing women you need to see at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2019

Nearly 100 inspiring females are involved in Dubai's celebration of literature this March

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Every one of the nearly 100 female authors who are involved in this year's Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which runs from March 1-9, is amazing and inspiring. From children's book authors to award-winning science journalists, doctors to poets, and psychologists to crime-thriller novelists, the programme is jam-packed with sessions being led by wonderful women who are changing the world one small step at a time.

These seven, in particular, stand out.

Jennifer Palmieri

Palmieri is the former communications director for the White House and for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. She  penned the book Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World, which was written in the form of a letter to the first female president and every woman who's working to succeed in their career.

A dedicated Democrat, Palmieri first started working in the White House when she was just 24, for Bill Clinton, and it was under Barack Obama’s leadership that she became the director of communications. In 2015, she made the decision to join Clinton’s team.

She’ll be part of three sessions at the literature festival, including groups talks on Youth Day 2019 (March 7) and International Women’s Day (March 8), as well as her own discussion, where she’ll share her advice for all women who want to take control of their lives, workplaces and country.

Lucy Siegle

Writer and TV presenter Lucy Siegle believes you can't change the world if you don't take care of it first. That's why she specialises in environmental issues and ethical lifestyles. In particular, she's an expert on the eco and social footprint of the global fashion industry. She wrote the book To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing out the World and produced The True Cost, the harrowing Netflix documentary that shed light on the detriments of the fast-fashion industry. Her new book, Turning the Tide on Plastic: How Humanity (and you) Can Make Our Globe Clean Again, is what she'll be discussing in her session on March 2 at this year's literature festival. Her aim? To bring out eco-warrior in us all.

She’s also be participating in the How You Can Change The World session on March 1 alongside Zainab Salbi (you'll learn more about her below).

Nicola Morgan

As an international expert on teenage brains and mental health, the multi-award-winning author Nicola Morgan will have a lot of advice to offer parents at this year’s literature festival. She knows plenty about how stress impacts wellbeing and performance, for example, what the effects of screens and social media are, and about all the benefits of reading for pleasure.

A former teacher and dyslexia specialist, Morgan has also written a series of best-selling books, including Blame My Brain and The Teenage Guide to Life Online. This last topic is what she'll be talking about on March 9 in Dubai. She's addressing concerns such as: What happens to us – young or old – when we spend time on the internet? How does it affect our mood and sleep patterns? What are the risks of sharing too much information? It promises to be a very illuminating session for us all.

Zainab Salbi

Humanitarian, author and TV personality Zainab Salbi is quite literally changing the world from the inside out. She founded Women for Women International in 1993 in a bid to help female war survivors recover from their traumatic experiences through improving their skills while rebuilding their mental health and self-confidence. The organisation has helped 400,000 women in the past 25 years and distributed more than $100 million (Dh370m) in aid.

In 1995, she was honoured by President Bill Clinton for her work in Bosnia.

Over the years, Salbi has also written three books – most recently, Freedom is an Inside Job, which she will be discussing in a session on March 2 at the Dubai festival. Her belief is: we can all transform the world by first addressing our own inner conflicts.

You can also catch her in a group panel discussion called How You Can Change The World with Lucy Siegle and James Owens on March 1.

Zelda La Grange

South African-born Zelda La Grange grew up in an apartheid state, where she was taught people like Nelson Mandela were the enemy. But she eventually became one of the late president’s most trusted confidantes, serving him for more than 19 years as his executive personal assistant, spokesperson, manager of stakeholder relations and of his private office. She even called him “khulu” or “grandfather”.

On March 8, in her session, Good Morning, Mr Mandela, which is named after her 2014 memoir, she pays tribute to the noted leader and shares how he impacted her life. She’ll also be taking part in the International Women’s Day panel discussion, alongside Jennifer Palmieri, as well as the group event Letters on Letters, on March 9, in which authors will wax lyrical on the words that have left lasting impressions on them.

Dr Jane Hawking

Dr Jane Hawking is speaking at the Emirates Airline Literature Festival in March. Courtesy Emirates Airline Literature Festival
Dr Jane Hawking is speaking at the Emirates Airline Literature Festival in March. Courtesy Emirates Airline Literature Festival

She needs no introduction, but Dr Jane Hawking, who is best known as the late Stephen Hawking’s wife, is a fascinating writer and lecturer in her own right. She has a PhD in medieval Spanish poetry, and written a couple of memoirs and novels.

Hawking was supposed to attend the literature festival in 2018, but unfortunately had to cancel her appearance last minute. At the time, she spoke to The National about what it was like to live in her famous ex-husband's shadow.

This year, Hawking will be leading two sessions during her time in Dubai. In From Fact to Film to Fiction, she'll share the story of her marriage and introduce us to her 2016 novel, Silent Music, a coming-of-age story set in post-war Britain. She'll also attend a screening of the 2015 Oscar-winning film The Theory of Everything, which was inspired by her own 2002 memoir Travelling to Infinity. In a session that follows, you'll get the chance to ask Hawking all of your burning questions.

Dana Al Balooshi

You’re never too young to change the world, as 12-year-old author Dana Al Balooshi proves. When she was just nine years old, Al Balooshi trained and NASA and became the youngest ever Emirati to do so. Now, she's written a book, too.

On March 9, she will be regaling a youthful audience with tales from 13 Amazing Women of Arabia. The inspiring ladies she pays homage hail from fields ranging from science to government, fashion to business and sports.

It surely won't be long until people are writing books about her.

For full details on all sessions and authors, visit