Monday, February 23, 2004


In the summer of 1993, I went to the West Bank through Jordan, taking taxis and buses over the Allenby Bridge, a security checkpoint and entrypoint to the West Bank that I still have nightmares about. Our luggage was strewn all over a giant metal tray, our body cavities searched, and we languished in the heat for over 12 hours, waiting for someone to call out our names and allow us entry. Mama, an Egyptian, had always told me that such measures were meant not only to humiliate us and to give Israel a sense of protection, but to keep us away from the West Bank.

Once inside the West Bank, specifically my grandfather's house, we rejoiced-- by eating a big meal, dancing to music, and telling stories. Not a rock was flung for our entertainment, not a bomb set off.

That same summer, we attempted a trip to Jerusalem but were stopped on a hill outside its borders, our paperwork deemed unworthy. I remember standing at the checkpoint's fence, its diamond wire-shapes framing the Dome of the Rock. There are a lot of moments to which I can trace my hunger to become I writer: that moment comes in at #1.

I'm sure that this makes a lot of Israelis, Zionists, and anyone else who will defend Israel no matter what, laugh. Who was I, afterall, and why did I make such a big deal about not being able to go to Jerusalem? What connection did I have to Jerusalem, anyway? I was just a kid who'd been fed a bunch of propaganda, they'd argue.

They're wrong.

It had nothing to do with Jerusalem, which I care nothing for compared to the love I feel for Alexandria. It had to do with the unfairness, injustice, discrimination, and the alienating wall that is built when one people asserts its rights, its price of human life, its worth, over others'. I felt that I was not human that day. Or maybe I imagined the immense melancholy that overcame me, and the humiliating worthlessness that squatted in my heart. But I don't think so.

This morning, hearings are being held in the Hague to determine the legality, or lack thereof, of Israel's new "security" wall. The wall is nothing like the fence of my 15th summer, which I could see and dream through. The people it affects are not 15 year-olds on summer trips. The wall, when completed, will isolate up to 300,000 Palestinians, and chop the West Bank into 16 separated pockets.

Israelis and Israeli sympathizers may cite suicide bombings such as yesterday's as the main reason for the wall, and the truth is, though suicide bombings will not be a regular occurrence after the wall, they will be more devastating since those who do get past the wall will make sure their strikes are more effective and enormous. This is because Palestinians will not go away, like dejected dogs, and will not only remain angry, but become more infuriated. Israelis' sense of security will be a temporary one that will not last.

The real problem here is that Israel does not accept that the Palestinians exist, and that they need to be acknowledged and allowed to share the land. All of it.

This leads to the second real problem: the Palestinians don't accept the Israelis either.

But they're both just going to have to suck it up.

One day, when the U.S. government realizes that encouraging an end-of-days bullshit tension in the Middle East does nothing less than help destroy its very beliefs, along with its buildings, it will help mediate a just peace, one that gives both Israelis and Palestinians equal rights in the same country.

PalIsrael? Yes, I'm a dreamer still, 15 years old and naively believing that if fences, walls, checkpoints could be cut down, people would be a hell of a lot less angry, less likely to kill themselves along with tons of others, and if I were the one putting up the fence, the feeling I'd get from not needing a fence, from not believing so firmly that others are constantly out to kill me, would set me free. But I don't see what else to hope for. The taking down of fences, checkpoints, and walls all over the world takes a lot of work. Dreaming -- believing-- may be the first step.

Monday, February 09, 2004

I have just been informed that my father has found my friendster profile. My flaky, musician sister is responsible for this (she left my page up and he went to her room and accidentally saw it). She says she had my photos page up and had to go answer the phone, and that when she went back to her room, she found him standing in front of her monitor, mouth agape, pointing to the photo on the far left. She clambered to minimize the page, but not before he could utter a confused "is that her...her...BREAST?" Oh, poor Baba.

Sunday, February 08, 2004


My first novel, A Map of Home is forthcoming in September. It won the Hopwood and Geoffrey James Gosling Awards at the University of Michigan, where I received my MFA. The novel will also be published in Taiwan, Germany, Israel, and Italy, and portions of it have already been translated into Italian, Finnish, and Arabic.

My short fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, Hunger Mountain, Duck & Herring, online, and in numerous anthologies. My short story, “You Are a Fourteen-Year-Old Arab Chick Who Just Moved To Texas,” won the Million Writers Award and was a notable story in Best American Non-Required Reading 2005.

My translations from the Arabic have appeared in numerous anthologies including Words Without Borders: The World Through the Eyes of Writers. I translated the acclaimed Lebanese novel Year of the Revolutionary New Bread-Making Machine (Saqi/Telegram Books).

I'm also a columnist at Make/Shift magazine.

Currently, I live in Ann Arbor with my 11-year-old son Angelo, my boyfriend Russell, and our cat, Mahatma Boots.

Here is a fun timeline for your pleasure:

1978: I am born to an Egyptian-Greek Mama and a Palestinian Baba in Chicago. We move to Kuwait two months later.
1982: I begin school early and my journey of nerddom and doing-things-too-soon begins.
1990: Iraq invades Kuwait and I move to Alexandria, Egypt.
1991: My dad gets a job in NYC and I move to White Plains, NY
1992: I move to Greenwich, CT, which is so white it scars me for life.
1994: I enroll at Sarah Lawrence College at age 16.
1996: I give birth to my son at age 18.
1998: I move to Austin, TX to escape family and ex.
2000: I receive an MA in Middle Eastern Studies.
2000: I begin novel.
2001: I move to a trailer in Kyle, TX (pop. 5,000 at the time) & begin novel again.
2003: I finish novel.
2004: I begin revising novel. And I start this blog.
2006: I sell novel.
2006: I move to Ann Arbor to attend University of Michigan's MFA program.
2007: Novel wins Hopwood Award
2008: I receive my MFA in fiction.

Timeline will continue as drama accrues...

Saturday, February 07, 2004


When I was 19, I went to a lawyer and filed for divorce from my abusive, annoying, semi-illiterate husband. I was nursing Angie, who was six months old at the time, and squeezed the lawyer appointment in between feeding Ang and going to class ( I was attending Sarah Lawrence at the time on partial scholarship).

I don't plan ever to remarry, and this isn't just because I'm hell-bent on being poor and a shitty mom, as President Bush would have you believe. I could just bitch here about how much his latest welfare "reform" strategy-- which aims to steer single moms into marriage-- angers me, but instead, dear reader, I'll relate a story.

In Spring of 2001, I took a break from writing my novel and went to the Bay Area with Ms. Elka. We went to her lovely sister Elly's dance performance in SF, and I wore a sexy outfit in hopes of snagging a hottie in tights and screwing his brains out later on. Half an hour into the show, one of the performers did a skit where she wore a wedding dress and stood in front of a full-length, brass-lined mirror, tape recorder in hand. She'd play the recorder and it would emit her own voice, which would, in turn, ask her: "Do you, ______, take you, in blissful matrimony, from this day on?" She was marrying herself, in front of us, and herself, to herself. It sounds hokey now, but it was fucking funny at the time.
I was in the third row, drunk on free red gallery wine, laughing my purple-tinted teeth off, and when the ceremony ended, the woman turned around and lifted her left arm. I saw it in slow motion: the gerbera/rose/lily bouquet sailing, slowly: over the head of the performer, over the heads of the women in the front row, over the head of the cute fae guy sitting in front of me, and into my unsuspecting, unhappy lap. I cringed: I'd NEVER caught a bouquet before, so how befitting was this, this catching of a bouquet belonging to a woman who'd just conducted a self-marriage ceremony?

19% of single moms say they would never marry- neither their children's father or anyone else, for that matter. Count me as one of them. President Bush could GIVE me the entire $2 billion he's funneling into the program, and I still wouldn't remarry Angie's dad, because I have something President Bush never will: self-respect.

That night at the gallery, I clutched the bouquet against my heart and returned smiles from kind strangers for the rest of the evening: "Oh," they laughed in recognition, "you're the one who caught the bouquet?"
I never did get laid that night.