The Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) conference starts tomorrow in Minneapolis! I’m speaking on a panel Friday morning about Arab American identity. I had the honor of interviewing some heavy hitters: poet and author Naomi Shihab Nye, novelist and memoirist Diana Abu-Jaber, poet and essayist Lisa Suhair Majaj, playwright and actor Leila Buck, and writer and scholar Amira Jarmakani. I asked them why, as mixed-heritage Arab American woman who could “pass” as white, they instead choose to “flame” as Arab, boldly communicating their Arabic roots. (The language of the study, as the study itself, are works in progress as almost no one thinks that they “flame” — as one participant put it, is not hiding who you are the same as flaming?)
I found that their experiences show that identities are not static, they shape shift along with us and can serve as powerful tools to connect with broader communities for storytelling, activism and a sense-of-self.
Drop by at 9AM on Friday to hear all about it! (For those of you who won’t be at the conference, unfortunately, it won’t be streaming live on Skype just yet. Maybe next year. Email me for the cliff notes.)
P.S. Thanks to the A-B in my name I’m at the top of the list of presenters! Check it out here.
I remember walking into the Sanrio store as a little girl and thinking I had landed in heaven. No other store in our suburban mall carried what I needed to survive elementary school: lunch boxes, pencils and their holders, markers, erasers, and so much more. We used to call it “the Hello Kitty store” because the famous white feline’s face—with her black eyes, yellow nose, three whiskers on each cheek, and pink bow over her right ear—appeared on every product.
My honey and I communicate terribly through words: He says, “A,” I hear “B” and snap “C,” then he barks “D” – resulting in an “F.” Fortunately, we speak each other’s language on the dance floor. Now, thanks to the generosity of a friendly bystander Linda, who recorded this snippet at Uprising’s Radio-to-TV Launch Party, we have proof!
People tell us all the time, “You should dance more often.” Yes, we should. And, even when it’s raining deadlines, we will – Inshallah.
I’ve got a deadline to write 35K words (120 pages) by August 25th — three months to produce a draft of my “manuscript,” that is, my first book! No editing allowed, only writing — forward, forward, forward — which is the most painful part of the process for me. Although I can’t clean the house to save my life, polishing paragraphs and wiping away unnecessary words gives me such satisfaction. I guess my reward for writing what Anne Lamott calls a “shitty rough draft,” will be that I get to spend the following five months cleaning it up, with a deadline of completing an edited draft by December 5th! I think that boils down to 10 pages a week, two pages a day if I want to take weekends off (which would be a luxury).
Many people enjoy writing as a singular act, but I thrive most when I can tell I’m part of a team. So, who wants to join me in this crazy endeavor? Anyone else trying to achieve an outlandish goal between now and 2015? Even if we’re not physically working side-by-side, it’d be great to know we’re in this together!
The “Tough Issue” hits newsstands June 1st. I’m honored to have been chosen as one of five featured contributors:
My article, “Alice in TV Land” addresses what went down with ABC’sAlice in Arabia, as well as the divide between media critics and makers but looks to bridge the gap: “As an Arab American feminist trained to critique popular culture, I want to find ways to spark, influence, and create it as well.”
Here’s a pulled quote to wet your appetite:
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RAWI, the Radius of Arab American Writers, Inc., is an organization for Arab American writers, scholars, and artists. RAWI conferences bring these usual suspects together to share ideas and words by day and to shake our booties by night. This year’s gathering will be held in September in partnership with Mizna, in Minneapolis, MN.
My paper, “Passing for White, Flaming as Arab,” has been accepted — FUN! Here’s the scoop: Many Arab American women writers are mixed-heritage, with one parent of white European descent and the other of Arab descent – myself included. Why, when many of us could “pass” as white, have we chosen to instead “flame” as Arabs, using signifiers to communicate our Arab heritage, in particular through our writing? I suspect the choice is both personal and political. To find out, I will interview a handful of AMAZING writers: Naomi Shihab Nye, Diana Abu-Jaber, Lisa Suhair Majaj, Leila Buck and Amira Jarmakani. I will also include myself in the study, referencing my essay “No Longer Just American” published in the anthology Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, in which I describe my own experience grappling with identity and choosing not to pass.
Here’s a pic with Leila Buck from the last conference I attended (in 2006) — before our silver streaks came in.