REVIEW: “Sleep It Off, Dr Schott” by Selma Dabbagh

Review of Selma Dabbagh, “Sleep It Off, Dr Schott”, in Basma Ghalayini, ed., Palestine+100, (Comma Press, 2019): 21-42 — Purchase here. Reviewed by Sara L. Uckelman. (Read the review of the anthology.)

Content warning: sexual harassment, sexual assault, alcoholism.

What an uncomfortable story to read, of a female scientist, Dr. Mona Kamal, trying to work in partnership with a male technician, Dr. Eyal Schott, to get a new piece of equipment up and running before the deadline, but instead getting serially harassed by him. I felt a lot of sympathy for Dr. Kamal, her outrage, her patience, her resignation, and I bet many women, especially fellow scientists, will sympathise with her plight too. I guess it’s too much to hope that misogyny will no longer be rampant in the 2050s.

The focal point of the story, though, is not actually either Dr. Kamal or Dr. Schott (despite the title), but Layla Wattan, a Recorder who “would’ve sold [her] kidneys for a job in the Enclave” (p. 22) where the two doctors work. She provides the framing and narration for Mona and Eyal’s interactions, and the story works in such a way that I got to the end, immediately went back and reread the first few pages, and got infinitely more out of it than I’d gotten the first time I read them.