Forthcoming

October  Commentary is pre-empted for the month of fundraisiing. We resume early November.

Sept 24 Do war memoirs really advance education about our world? And--attacks on BDS and Americans' freedom of speech.

Sept 17-- Sport stars and politcal dissent stemming from Kaepernick's actions. Comment on NY State's Sept 13 Primaries

Sept 10  Assessing Muslim Americans' ongoing fight for Muslim rights, and in the context of today's election cycle.

Aug 27, Where are Muslim Americans in the US administration's immigrant purge?

Aug 20 Celebrating achievements-- Sam Anderson and Rosemari Mealy. And still more published memoirs fro Middle East peoples

August 1- The inexorable struggle for Palestinian rights

July 2, WBAI Radio  Exploring EXILE in American literature:--  "Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits", and "In The Light of What We Know".

June 25 EXILE in literature: a review of the novels "Cutting For Stone" and "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers".

June 18, The vicissitudes of Nepal's fledgling democracy. And a review of White House Ramadan "iftar" ceremonies.

June 11 The rentier economy of Jordan and current public protests. How the UK and US use Jordan. And celebrities' role in news.,

June 4 "Naila and The Uprising" a film memory of Palestinian resistance. And: why is Tariq Ramadan imprisoned?

April 30 How could detante in Korea affect other conflicts? And a look at our own role in plastic pollution.

April 23  The US mission creep into Syria, and more reviews of children's books about refugees. 

April 16  Why are Islamist rebels are being escorted out of the so called liberated areas, and where are they going? and a review of new Arab American memoirs 

April 9; Saudi Arabia's long and deep times with the US film industry. And we review the plethora of Arab women's memoirs

April 2 documenting war trauma. Do some war traumatized matter more than others? 

March 26 Iraq's neglected agricultural industry, and the persecution of Swiss-Arab Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan

March 19, Iraq today. And the legal challenges facing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against apartheid Israel.

March 12,Commentary on the fall of Myanmar's Ang Sang SuKyi; and recent observations for Iraq.

Jan 8, 7:45 am Film review of "Land of the Pomegranates", and an introduction to the American organization "Muslimish"

Nov 27, Russia and Syria: commentary on this longstanding relationship in the current international scene

Nov 20. A look at the new crisis created around Lebanon PM Hariri's resignation. Comments on a culture that's infused and spilling over with sexual predators.

Nov 13 Update on Kirkuk, Iraq. Veterans Day USA: Is celebration of war heros increasing?.

Nov 6, WBAI  News of Kirkuk, N. Iraq after the failed Kurdish referendum; Accusations towards male religious figures in ongoing sexual abuse exposes.

Sept 25: Syria update: the changing status quo and resulting change in US media coverage.. The Kurdish referendum

Sept 18: Myanmar's Ang San Su Kyi's eary history; beware of simplistic sectarian analyses

Sept 11: women as pawns in justifying American "wars to protect"

August 28, 7:45 am WBAI. Linda Sarsour, Arab American and US Muslim community leader: in her defence. Margo Shetterley author of "Hidden Figures"

Aug 21, WBAI Palestinian-American Rasmea Odeh, stripped of citizenship and deported this week.

Aug 14: BN Review of the anti-Israel boycott action in the US Congress. WBAI, 90.5 fm

July 10:  Nepal just completed its first election in 20 years for nationwide local admin posts.

July 3, WBAI Radio. "All politics is local":-- the hard work of using local news resources.

June 26: WBAI Radio We ask why is there no anti-war movement in the US? And: “Martyrdom”—an archaic phrase but a concept we need to think about today.

June 19  On the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war, and Israel's seemingly unstoppable political, diplomatic and territorial march, it’s remarkable that the Palestinian voice is heard at all.

June 12  The dilemma of 'moderate Amercian Muslims; following ReclaimNY , a child of Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer.

May 1, Workers Day, WBAI 99.5 fm. BN Aziz highlights the rise of the 'gig economy'

April 24, 7:45 WBAI 99.5 fm. A check on our progress as American Muslims; and, Lynne Stewart: the Peoples' Lawyer. 

See Ramzy Baroud's assessment on how our Muslim community misuses celebrity Muslims as surrogates for their own stuggle.

 

Monday April 17 WBAI Radio, NYC. Why is there essential no anti-war movement in the USA?

April 10;  A critical look at media coverage of the US assault on Syria; and an update on ReclaimNY.

B. Nimri Aziz weekly radio commentary on events around the globe and in the USA. Listen in at 99.5 fm, or online www.wbai.org where we are livestreamed.

"We are more alike than we are different"

  Maya Angelou

March 8, Women's Day Radio Specials  10-11 am on WJFF Radio, 90.5 fm, and 11:am on WBAI, 99.5 New York: B. Nimri Aziz interviews director Amber Fares about her new film "Speed Sisters" and exerpts from 2009-2010 interviews with professional women in Syria, Nadia Khost and Nidaa Al-Islam.

 

 

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singer at 89

 

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain

 

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore

 

 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:

 

"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.

 

Arab Women Authors Narrate More Than Women’s Experience

2018-05-26

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

A flood of women’s memoirs seem to have landed in the literary marketplace, along with quasi memoirs for children. Not only confessionals and more discoveries about our gender and its vicissitudes, but revelations of rebellious girls of past generations, ("Brazen: Rebel Ladies" who Rocked the World and the best-selling "Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls") chronicling the modest origins of today’s heroines and celebrities-- political, academic and artistic. Our herstories seem inexhaustible.

                Memoir is the primary genre through which we learn about women. This, with a caveat, is especially true of ‘Third World’ women, where Muslim women are among the most ‘trendy’ and thereby sought after today-- especially if we are ‘victims’. (More of that later.)

                Among Third World writers, we include those in the Diaspora, for example Arab American women --Suheir Hammad, Susan Muaddi Darraj, Evelyn Shakir, and Ghada Kanafani, to name just a few-- now penning an extraordinary number of personal accounts, many of them non-fiction. This, in contrast to Arab and Muslim men (e.g. well known novelists like Abdelrahman Munif, Rabih Alameddine, Rawi Hage, Mohsin Hamid, and Haroon Moghul) most of whom seem to forgo memoir for fiction.

                Before being diverted by an abundance of autobiographies and semi-fictional accounts of refugees from Syria and other war zones, I opened two new memoirs by my Arab American colleagues. One is Looking Both Ways (Cune Press, 2017), a collection of essays about ‘being Arab in America’ by poet and short story author Pauline Kaldas. The other is attorney Alia Malek’s account of the ‘trying to be Arab’ –a phrase I apply with some empathy-- in her family’s homeland, Syria, an endeavor launched just the year before and then observed during the uprising and war there. With her special interest in civil rights and author of a fine collection of biographies of Arabs in the US (A Country Called Amreeka, 2009), Malek went to Syria nine years ago ostensibly to restore her family apartment in Damascus, then, between unexplained excursions to Egypt, stayed long enough to record the earliest months of what became a terribly destructive and relentless conflict. Malek’s new book is The Home That Was My Country: A Memoir of Syria (Nation Books, 2017). It carries eerie echoes of House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family and A Lost Middle East, by prize-winning journalist Anthony Shadid who died on assignment soon after resorting his ancestral home in South Lebanon.

                Differences between Kaldas’ collection and Malek’s war chronicle are sharp. Looking Both Ways takes us on a mostly agreeable journey through Kaldas’ childhood move from Egypt to the USA, graduate studies in literature, her family and college life, and a revisit to her homeland during its post-Mubarak transformation in 2013. Kaldas’ inviting style will make any reader, but especially Americans, feel kinship with her. This, while her carefully crafted chronicle of encounters living in America exposes the often unspoken and nuanced tensions of ‘being Arab’ here. Kaldas infuses her perspective with both humor and a benign philosophy.

                Malek’s recounting of her family’s tales is, in contrast, sadly absent of any intimacy. Her chronicle is instead shrouded by an almost inherited bitterness towards the country, an acrimony one sometimes finds among the earlier generation of Syrian immigrants, even middle class families like Malek’s who were voluntary émigrés. Even before the uprising in Syria and despite a decision to write her home-story around a colorful maternal grandmother, she’s unable to convey any warmth in the memories gathered from her circle of relatives and their neighbors she interviews. Malek’s bleak interpretation of Syria is understandable. Having set out to deepen her personal and cultural identity in a house and a homeland largely unknown to her, Malek chose an inopportune moment to do so. Any view of the many fine qualities and achievements of modern Syria is obscured when the country is fracturing terribly and beginning to unravel. Her account of the uprising and the ensuing crackdown and chaos, although unarguable, is absent of any appreciation of what the country had accomplished over the past quarter century. The book will serve as another indictment of the government.

                There is simply nothing redeeming coming out of Syria, whether journalistic chronicles like Malek’s, or Burning Country, or a number of new  children’s books, e.g. Escape from Aleppo, My Beautiful Birds, Refugee, The Land of Permanent Goodbyes, all but one authored by women.

                Notwithstanding the differences between the locales and the styles of Kaldas and Malek, their writings illustrate the extensive possibilities that lie in memoir. First, memoirs augment the many critical journalistic and political analyses in our (sorrowful) Arab history. Second, they are the voices of women for which there seems to be both literary scope and an infinite market.  

                Which brings me to the abundance of women authoring Third World memoirs. Why are so few of our men penning personal chronicles? Why the public fascination with our women?

                Reviewing over four decades of literature on this part of the world, it seems evident:—it’s the appeal of ‘the victim’. In addition to the inexhaustible stories of hardships by and about Arab and Muslim women, with Palestinian narratives the most pronounced and in a category or their own, we now have Yazidi women of Iraq, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State, The Girl Who Beat Isis, and most recently, The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq by Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail.. Arab women’s painful lives are matched by many others, ranging from Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography to a new memoir coauthored by Celemtine Wamariya, a Rwandan woman (The Girl Who Smiles Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After).

                One could posit that narrators of these testimonies are in fact heroines because they survived and overcame adversity. This argument could be valid if they accompany a wide range of stories. However these narratives are often the only personal accounts from those countries and cultures accessible to us. Only when a crisis erupts is a journalist sent there; the suffering witnessed is part of the news, and part of the exoticism.

                Others maintain that women’s lives are overshadowed by men in those cultures, so herstories are eclipsed. (But this is a universally recognized feature of every society; male bias is inherent in western world- authored accounts of those cultures too.)

                Could the preoccupation with women’s memoirs be an outcome of the western feminist movement of the 1970s where women of European origin, caught up in an inchoate pride of self-discovery, rushed across the globe and into their (own) inner cities, not to find parallel revolutions or third world women to model themselves on but mainly to document how others were still confined and in need of liberation? Anthropologists and journalists enthusiastically documented myriad manifestations of female oppression, abuse, inequality, patriarchy and misogyny practiced elsewhere (including among non-whites in their own culture).

                These celebrated-- yes, celebrated-- sad stories may continue to be published because of a public thirst for victims. Or they may dwindle while Americans and Europeans now turn the lens inward and chronicle a neglected violent, patriarchal, misogynist culture newly exposed in our own unliberated households, board rooms, universities and offices.

                Just as suffering ‘Third World’ women’s chronicles present a misguided means of building solidarity and documenting a more evenhanded history, the same may apply to refugee children’s stories. A recent review of several children’s books portrays young war-victims with some sympathy. Yet, it should be remembered that these stories are often the only means through which American and European children learn about Syria, Palestine, Pakistan, and other distant lands; those tales of suffering become a prism through which they may eternally view ‘others’.               

                I cannot advocate that we not pen memoirs, only that we recognize how market and political forces exclude some stories and champion others. Without women’s memoirs so much of social and political history would remain altogether hidden.  

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Tahrir Diwan

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