Video Talk and Book Review of Shahd Alshammari’s "Head Above Water: Reflections on Illness"

Video from Book Talk with Shahd Alshammari

Stanford's Ramzi Salti in conversation with the author of  Head Above Water  

This video features highlights from Dr. Ramzi Salti's conversation with Dr. Shahd Alshammari commemorating the US release of her new book 'Head Above Water'--an intimate memoir of her life of triumph and resistance, as a woman marked "ill" by society and as a lifelong reader, student, and teacher. CLICK CC for transcript and subtitles.  Go to

Scroll down for Ramzi Salti's review of the book.

Dr. Shahd Alshammari is a Kuwaiti-Palestinian author and academic. She is the author of the books Notes on the Flesh and Head Above Water, as well as numerous other academic publications and papers. Her areas of research include illness narratives, disability studies, and questions of identity and language in the Arab world.

Shahd Alshammari is just eighteen when she is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and told by her neurologist that she will not make it past age thirty.  Despite what she is told, by thirty she has managed to navigate education systems in both Kuwait and the United Kingdom, and inspire generations of students as a professor of literature.

Head above Water is the intimate memoir of Shahd Alshammari's life of triumph and resistance, as a woman marked "ill" by society and as a lifelong reader, student, and teacher.

Head Above Water by Shahd Alshammari

A Book Review by Dr. Ramzi Salti, Stanford University

In Head Above Water, Shahd Alshammari shares her deeply personal and thought-provoking journey of triumph and resilience, offering readers an intimate glimpse into her life as a woman marginalized by society and fueled by her passion for literature. This philosophical memoir delves into themes of disability, displacement, and the quest for belonging, encompassing not only physical challenges but also cultural, gender, and racial dynamics. Throughout the book, Alshammari imparts profound wisdom that resonates on a philosophical level.

What sets this memoir apart is the remarkable fact that it is based on the author's diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at the tender age of eighteen when her neurologist grimly informs her that she would not live past thirty. However, defying all odds and expectations, she not only surpasses that milestone but also becomes a professor of literature. Her journey takes her through navigating educational systems in both Kuwait and the United Kingdom, leaving an indelible impact on generations of students.

Head Above Water is a poignant and unique memoir that captures the essence of Alshammari's indomitable spirit. It serves as an inspiration for readers, shedding light on the power of determination and the resilience of the human spirit. Alshammari's exploration of disability, displacement, and the search for belonging resonates deeply, inviting readers to reflect on their own experiences and engage in meaningful introspection. With her insightful prose and astute observations, Alshammari crafts a compelling narrative that leaves a lasting impact.

Shad Alshammari, author of  Head Above Water

As a Kuwaiti-Palestinian author and academic, Shahd Alshammari brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her writing. Besides Head Above Water, she has also authored Notes on the Flesh and contributed to numerous academic publications and papers. Her research interests span illness narratives, disability studies, and exploring the complexities of identity and language in the Arab world.

Head Above Water is published by The Feminist Press at CUNY and will be officially released on July 18, 2023. You can pre-order your copy on Amazon and almost anywhere books are sold.


Everyone is invited to join us for this event. 

A Book Talk with Author Shahd Alshammari moderated by Dr. Ramzi Salti.
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
Virtual Event
9am PST, 5pm London, 7pm Kuwait/Jordan

Read more about this event at this link. Supported by Stanford's Abbasi Program.

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