Arab women

Claims by Palestinian American Poet Lisa Suhair Majaj

Today on September 11th, as Anti-Arab and Anti-Muslim racism swells around the world, a dose of reality by my friend and colleague Lisa Suhair Majaj. Her poem “Claims,” published in Geographies of Light, is read by yours truly in the video below, which was filmed at the Markaz Evening of Middle Eastern Storytelling on September 9th. The written version follows.

Claims by Lisa Suhair Majaj

I am not soft, hennaed hands,
a seduction of coral lips;
not the enticement of jasmine musk
through a tent flap at night;
not a swirl of sequined hips,
a glint of eyes unveiled.
I am neither harem’s promise
nor desire’s fulfillment.

I am not a shapeless peasant
trailing children like flies;
not a second wife, concubine,
kitchen drudge, house slave;
not foul-smelling, moth-eaten, primitive,
tent -dweller, grass-eater, rag-wearer.
I am neither a victim
nor an anachronism.

I am not a camel jockey, sand nigger, terrorist,
oil-rich, bloodthirsty, fiendish;
not a pawn of politicians,
nor a fanatic seeking violent heaven.
I am neither the mirror of your hatred and fear,
nor the reflection of your pity and scorn.
I have learned the world’s histories,
and mine are among them.
My hands are open and empty:
the weapon you place in them is your own.

*
I am the woman remembering jasmine,
bougainvillea against chipped white stone.
I am the laboring farmwife
whose cracked hands claim this soil.
I am the writer whose blacked-out words
are birds’ wings, razored and shorn.
I am the last one who flees,
and the lost one returning;
I am the dream, and the stillness,
and the keen of mourning.

I am the wheat stock, and I am
the olive. I am plowed fields young
with music of crickets,
I am ancient earth struggling
to bear history’s fruit.
I am the shift of soil
where green thrusts through,
and I am the furrow
embracing the seed again.

I am many rivulets watering
a tree, and I am the tree.
I am opposite banks of a river,
and I am the bridge.
I am light shimmering
off water at night,
and I am the dark sheen
that swallows the moon whole.

*
I am neither the end of the world
nor the beginning.

I’m Reading Sept 9th @TheMarkazLA–Come Join Us!

Markaz storytelling

Come on out next week for a night of Middle Eastern storytelling! I’ll be reading a new essay about my last name and how it relates to being Arab American and mixed. Plus, we’re going to dance the dubke! Details below:
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Passing as White, Flaming as Arab: My Essay in the #Arab American Journal #Mizna

mizna

"You're Arab American?"
"Yep." I nod, knowing what they'll say next.
"I never would've guessed. You don't even look Arab."
"That's what people tell me," I say with a smile, shrugging my shoulders. Over the years, I've played with different responses, having heard this reaction innumerable times from both Arabs and non-Arabs...

My essay, “Passing as White, Flaming as Arab–Why Mixed-Heritage Arab American Women Writers Choose Not to Pass as White and Instead to Flame as Arab,” has been published in the latest issue of Mizna! (Click on the title to read the essay in PDF. Visit mizna.org to buy your own copy of the amazing issue.)

Special thanks to Amira Jarmakani, Diana Abu-Jaber, Leila Buck, Lisa Suhair Majaj and Naomi Shihab Nye, who contributed their personal experiences and brilliant ideas.

I’m Speaking at the #MixedRemixed Festival on Sat June 13!

Mixed Remixed Im Speaking

I’m honored to have been chosen to be part of the panel entitled, “Writing the Mixed Experience Professionally.” I’ll do my best to represent as a mixed-heritage Arab American writer!  Come join in on the fun!

Check out the website and register by clicking here.

Day and Time: June 13, 2015 from 10AM to 5:30PM — My panel’s from 11AM to 12:20PM.

Place: The Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo at 100 N Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Hope to see you there!

#RAWI Conference Kicks Off Friday Morning with My Presentation!

Passing Flaming Prezi

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.