A Border Passage: From Cairo to America—A Woman’s Journey is a nonfiction memoir.


Leila Ahmed is the narrator as well as the protagonist of A Border Passage.

Point of View

The narrator, Leila Ahmed, tells the story in first person, describing her thoughts and feelings about events in her life, though she does give a broad overview of the historical context.


The tone of the memoir is critical, descriptive, poetic, and personal.


A Border Passage is told in the past tense.

Setting (Time & Place)

The memoir is set from the 1940s to the 1980s. A Border Passage is set in Cairo, Egypt; in Cambridge, England; in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates; and in the United States.

Major Conflict

Ahmed struggles to define her identity in the world are the major conflict of her memoir.

Rising Action

Ahmed’s education and increasing awareness of her identity as an Arab and Egyptian in the world open her eyes to new perspectives and create new problems in her search for her identity.


Ahmed comes to the United States to establish herself as a women’s studies scholar.

Falling Action

Ahmed decides to write about her Egyptian heritage in a memoir.


As A Border Passage is a work of nonfiction, there is no real foreshadowing per se. Instead, repeated motif and symbols, such as music, serve to reinforce the connections that the author is making between events and experiences.