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.