Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists

By Joanna Kadi | Go to book overview

Wherever I Am

MARY SALOME

"You speak Hebrew, and you're not Jewish?"

The surprise in the man's voice alarmed me, despite the fact that most people respond that way upon learning that yes, I speak Hebrew and no, I am not Jewish. In this case, my last name made it obvious that not only am I not Jewish, I am Arab-American.

"Yes," I responded. "I learned in high school. It was taught just like any other foreign language."

"But isn't this a bit...unusual?"

"I suppose so." My insides tightened. This was no ordinary conversation, it was prefaced by three hours of questioning and searching that occured before I could board my El Al flight to Israel. What little I knew of life in Israel didn't prepare me for my first visit. I felt shocked, and angry. I expected my knowledge of Hebrew would be an asset, a sign that I had opened myself to Israeli culture in a gesture of understanding and good will. O.K., I was ignorant, and wrong.

It was the fall of 1989 and I spent four months travelling in Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, and Jerusalem. Part of the reason for my trip was a search for myself and my identity; for communities where I might feel at home. Identity is a complicated subject, and it is always hard for me to say who I am in a few words. I identify myself as a living being, a human being, a woman, a lesbian, a Syrian/Irish-American, and a feminist. My feeling that there is rarely room for me to claim all of who I am increased on this trip. The most noticeable parts of my identity were those which made me different from the people around me, and people usually viewed these differences as negative. For example, in mainstream Israel our common humanity felt less important than the fact that I am an Arab, an American, a lesbian, and a feminist. Among Arabs, my Arab identity came into question because I am part Irish, and an American; my feminism and lesbianism also seemed to set me apart. I don't believe it is my identity that creates these divisions,

-87-

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Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Related Titles from South End Press *
  • Food for Our Grandmothers - Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments x
  • A Note about Arabic Terms xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Food for Our Grandmothers *
  • I - Olives Our Roots Go Deep: Where We Came from *
  • Olives 3
  • Recognized Futures 5
  • Sittee (on Phantom Appearances of a Lebanese Grandmother) 7
  • Great-Grandma Michael 18
  • Longing for Winter 21
  • Battling Nationalisms to Salvage Her History 24
  • For My Son Shaadi 30
  • Crossing over to the Other Side 32
  • The Queen, Carcasses, and Other Things 39
  • One Room 48
  • Chalked out 50
  • Unpicked Fruits 56
  • II - Bread a Basic Desire : Going Home *
  • Bread 63
  • Boundaries: Arab/American 65
  • Wherever I Am 87
  • Homecoming 94
  • Banned Poem 97
  • Peace is Tossed to the Wind 101
  • Moroccan Steam 104
  • She Makes Me Tea in Cairo 107
  • III - Thyme Growing against the Odds: Surviving the Gulf War *
  • Thyme 111
  • Amara 113
  • A Woman's Place is in the Struggle - A Personal Viewpoint on Feminism, Pacifism, and the Gulf War 114
  • Offensive Art by Palestinian Children - Anti-Arab Racism and the Gulf War Fallout on Campus 120
  • Military Presences and Absences - Arab Women and the Persian Gulf War 125
  • Gulf War 133
  • IV - Laban Silent Victims and Belly Dancers: (mis) Representations of Arab Women *
  • Laban 147
  • Say French 149
  • Global Sisterhood - Where Do We Fit In? 151
  • Tear off Your Western Veil! 160
  • Arab-Americans - Living with Pride and Prejudice 165
  • Exotic 168
  • The Arab Woman and I 170
  • The Arab Woman in U.S. Popular Culture - Sex and Stereotype 173
  • Orientalism in Science Fiction 181
  • V - Grapeleaves Tangled Identities: Claiming Ourselves *
  • Grapeleaves 189
  • A Lunatic from Libya, One Generation Removed 190
  • Going Home 192
  • What's Not in a Name 197
  • Browner Shades of White 204
  • On Language and Ethnicity 206
  • Mocking Civilization 210
  • Pulled 211
  • Abyss 214
  • Two Women Drinking Coffee 217
  • In Search of Home 218
  • Hairless in Gaza (or Plucking the Lines of Gender Difference) 224
  • Blood 226
  • VI - Mint Moving beyond Survival: Celebrating Who We Are *
  • Mint 229
  • ABC 230
  • Five Steps to Creating Culture 231
  • Camel Girl 238
  • Artist 241
  • A Blessing 244
  • Armenian/Lesbian - Telling out Stories 246
  • Mint, Jomatoes, and the Grapevine 250
  • VII - Appendix Arab Resources and Organizations *
  • The Image of Arabs in Sources of U.S. Culture 259
  • Organizations with an Arab-American/Arab-Canadian Focus 273
  • About the Contributors 275
  • Permissions 283
  • Index 285
  • About the Editor 289
  • About South End Press 290
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