Tuesday, November 27, 2007


...opens today. I'm being cautiously optimistic, but at the same time, I realize that unless the US does some serious spanking, nothing will really come of this. I'll be following the conference with low expectations, and a dash of hope.

(Honestly, though, this conference is a little like having an intervention for a couple that's been fighting for 50 years. The dude kept the house and made the wife sleep in the basement, and has been stuffing his pool table, his ping pong rackets, and his treadmill in her space, all the while not allowing her to access the house's water or electricity. And now, the landlord is coming in to drink beers with the dude and pretend to care about the wife's silly tea cosies and needle point, when all in all, he just wants to look good before his term on the neighborhood association ends. It's kind of... sad.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

On Michalle Gould's Resurrection Party

I've just received and finished reading Michalle Gould's chapbook, Resurrection Party, newly published from Hex Presse. The book itself is beautifully made- its haunting cover has a skeleton head which literally peeks at you through a milky-cloudy window.

The book is divided into four sections: Signs, Visions, Dreams, and Wonders, each with its own style and content, but all with the same preoccupation: the left-out, exile souls of both the living and the dead.

My favorite poems include "Landscape with Exotic Animals," in which a cloud formation loses one of its members, "What it Means to be Alive at the Time of the Resurrection of the Dead," a perfect meditation on exclusion, and "Square," which you have to read if you want to learn why a square is creepier than a circle or a triangle (the answer will chill and tickle you).

Hex Presse
is a new poetry publisher out of Goleta, CA, and is the print branch of Womb Poetry. This outing is a lush one, and I'm looking forward to their future titles.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Turkey Day

I'm having a dozen people over for Thanksgiving. On the menu: yeast rolls from scratch and mashed potatoes, courtesy of the sweet boyfriend; gravy; herbed stuffing; and sage-rosemary-thyme-marjoram rubbed turkey. I'm excited! Wish all my friends could come! Have a good one, my lovelies.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Eleven years ago today, I was lying on a hospital bed with contractions. I was 7 weeks shy of turning 19, my nurse reminded me once. I walked around a little and did squats but I still had to have a C-section. The nurses painted my belly with brown stuff and I looked like a turkey. They cut me up and my son was born. Now he's 11 and eating cupcakes with his friends at school. It feels surreal.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The li'l Palestinichicas of Arepeyat

Pubic Radio International profiles the Akko female rap duo, Arapeyat:
Both women are small, only about five feet tall. Abdel Al is the more serious of the two. Hathut is prone to giggling. She says not all their songs are social commentaries. They're about other things too.

“About love also, love, we are also like people, we have feelings “

“My dream is to go around the whole world and perform our rap, and to be like Tupac.“

The kind of news article that begs to be explored in fiction

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Palestinian brotha on Project Runway. Aw, yeah.

Rami, who was "born in the city of Jerusalem," won the first round on PR tonight.

I'm disproportionately happy about this.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Last weekend, I attended the Arab Students' Summit here at the University. They asked me to facilitate a talk on taboos (I wonder why?). We all sat in a circle: I, my co-facilitator, and a dozen or two Arab-American kids in their late teens and early twenties. Many were Dearbornites who spoke about their frustrations going back home and being asked if they moved to Ann Arbor because they got married. Some of them declared that they didn't believe in pre-marital sex. Many voiced their frustrations with the older generation of Arab-Americans and their frozen idea of what being Arab is.

I tried to get them talking about patriarchy, and about strategies to fight it, but was met with crickets and more groans about parents who just don't understand. I asked if any of them were considering a career in the Arts, and many said they felt they wouldn't have their family's support. We talked about how lonely it can be when you choose to do something no other Arab American in your town is doing.

The Summit was a real eye-opener for me. I have never lived in an Arab-American community. I didn't know that girls in Michigan have to roll their seats back when they're in a car with a boy, because otherwise people on the street will talk about them. I had no idea there were guys here who think it's OK to fuck a stranger, but when it comes to marriage, they want a nice muhajjaba girl. I didn't know that Arab-American communities were so conservative-- I thought these were silly stereotypes about our community. Then again, the only Arab-American community I am a part of is that of writers and artists.

We also talked about the taboo of being Arab. I asked them, "Ever tell your hairdresser you're Arab, and have her say, 'Well, that's OK!'" They laughed. It's crazy to live in a world where some people don't even know what an Arab is; or what an Arab looks like. I asked my writing students the other day when the last time they saw an Arab or Middle Eastern family was, and they all looked back at me blankly. It's so comforting to be in a room full of people who at least get where you've come from, even if you all disagree about where you are headed.

Later, I went to Dearborn with my 11-year-old kiddo and a few friends. I pigged out on kibbe and felt lucky that at the end of the night, I would end up at my own house, living with the rules I've created under my own roof. It feels great to be an adult, and it feels even greater to know I've escaped the rolled-back carseat, in a way.

And yes, sometimes, it's lonely.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Taha's reading rocked!

Taha and Peter Cole read a few of his poems to a full house yesterday, though Taha appeared exhausted after a long flight. Still, he told stories-- long, intricate, hilarious ones-- and read some amazing work, which he humbly thanked us for considering as poetry. Anton Shammas was in the audience-- Anton was the first to translate Taha's work into Hebrew, bringing him much attention- and Taha thanked him half a dozen times, calling him habibi over and over again. It was a heart-warming event.

Here is a poem that brought tears to many eyes. Here it is in Arabic.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Taha Muhammad Ali in Ann Arbor

The poet Taha Muhammad Ali will be on the U of Michigan campus tomorrow for a roundtable (2-3, Hopwood Room), and a reading at 5 at the Rackham Ampitheater, 915 E. Washington.

About Ali, from his publisher's website:
Taha Muhammad Ali is a self-taught wonder, a man who sold souvenirs during the day and who, at night, studied classical Arabic texts, American fiction, English Romantic poets, Chekov, and Maupassant. Born in Saffuryia, the Galilean village at the heart of his poems, Taha and his family escaped to Lebanon during the Arab-Israeli War. He returned a year later to live in Nazareth, one painful mile away from the ruins of his former village.
A relative latecomer to poetry, Muhammad Ali has published short stories since the 1950s in Arabic and Hebrew publications. Now, having presented his poetry at the Jerusalem International Poetry Festival, the Geraldine R. Dodge Festival, and at

colleges and universities across the United States, Taha Muhammad Ali is a beloved Palestinian poet. Audiences around the world have been powerfully moved by Muhammad Ali’s poems of political complexity, bittersweet humor, and—above all—humanity. Muhammad Ali has turned over the management of his souvenir shop, near the Church of the Annunciation, to his sons and spends his days writing, traveling, and conversing with friends over Turkish coffee.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Got Arab?

My friend Ramzi

did this series of posters

that I love.

Here are a couple.

Friday, November 02, 2007

New Story in the Fall Issue of Hunger Mountain

My short story, "The Story of My Building" (an homage to Isaac Babel’s "Story of My Dovecote") appears in the current issue of Hunger Mountain. Here's a snippet:

I was ten years old when card-game night was moved to our apartment in al-Zarqah, the poorest neighborhood in Gaza. We lived in a sprawling compound of buildings which housed grocers, teachers, nurses, tailors, cooks, cobblers, and on the top floor of the third building, a translator of Russian literature—my father.

The men gathered in the living room, which soon filled up with smoke and the smell of bourbon, and the wives sat in the sitting room, a place which really was perfect for sitting, since it was set up like a diwan, with rectangular pillows on the tiled floor, and low wooden tables upon which small demitasses of tea were placed. My cousins and friends all piled together in my bedroom, which I shared with my sister, who hated the fact that she had to live with a boy.

The men guffawed and clinked their glasses, and every few seconds we heard an eager smoker clicking the metal wheel of an old recalcitrant lighter. We had a trick we liked to play with lighters: we’d empty the invisible gas into a closed fist, quickly flip the flame on and open our palms, which then appeared to be on fire. Our female cousins and friends taught us the trick, and for weeks afterwards, we worshipped them openly.

A few hours into card game night, the women would be so far gone into stories and sheeshas, and the men so drunk, that we would roam free in the buildings’ courtyard, which was sandy and surrounded by fake limestone walls, or climb the steps to the roof, where the doorman’s wife kept her pigeons. We loved the rainbow one, which we dubbed Magic, because of the shifting iridescent colors on its blue-black neck.

As we unhooked the cage door and brought Magic out, passing him from hand to hand, he looked like the opposite of flames in our fists. Majduleen, the youngest of my cousins, observed that when his neck was gold, he looked like the poster of the Dome of the Rock that her grandmother had plastered onto their kitchen wall. We agreed with her out of politeness; most of us deferred to Majduleen because of her exotic name.

Magic cooed in Majduleen’s fist, and a glass broke in our apartment. We heard men shouting. I ran downstairs, not wanting to miss the argument, and when I flung the front door open, I saw Uncle Fawzi, the cobbler, brandishing his walking stick at my father.

“Why are you defending them?” said Fawzi, “You son of a whore! You traitor!”
To read the rest of the story you'll have to order your copy here.