Telling the Story of Our Family, Community, & Culture (Blog Discussion)

DEC. 02, 2012 | 4 – Telling the Story of Our Family, Community, & Culture

Speaker: Elmaz Abinader | blog comments due on Saturday at midnight, Dec. 01


Hi everyone! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family.

We have the honor of having Elmaz Abinader speak this upcoming Sunday. Elmaz is an Arab American writer who cofounded VONA/Voices, a people of color writing workshop at UC Berkeley, has conducted many writing workshops in Palestine, a Fulbright Scholar to Egypt, winner of a PEN Award for her poetry collection, Country of My Dreams.

Especially in light of what’s happening in Gaza, I think our solidarity with Palestine and questions on how we can transmute our thoughts and political concerns into writing will be a great topic for discussion with Elmaz.

Here are the readings for Sunday:

Elmaz Abinader’s “The Proper Purgation”

This poem was included in the anthology, Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here. More on the anthology:

Al-Mutanabbi Street is the centuries-old center of bookselling in Baghdad, a winding street filled with bookstores and outdoor book stalls. Named after the famed 10th Century classical Arab poet, Al- Mutanabbi, this street has been, since time immemorial, the historic heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community.

On March 5, 2007, a car bomb was detonated on Al-Mutanabbi Street. At least thirty people were killed and one hundred wounded.

Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition was formed soon afterwards to commemorate not just the tragic loss of life, but also the idea of a targeted attack on a street where ideas have always been exchanged.

Edwidge Danticat’s “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work”

Melissa Roxas’s poems

Also, in light of Gaza and instead of reading Santos, please watch this poem by Rafeef Ziadah, “We Teach Life, Sir.

Finally, what are your first impressions? What emotive responses did these poems and creative nonfiction pieces relay to you? Further thoughts to think about:

1. How are poems and writing evidence? What ties these pieces together?
2. Danticat says: “Reading, like writing, […] is disobedience to a directive. […] Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. This is what I’ve always thought it meant to be a writer. Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them.” What are your thoughts to this statement?
3. What makes these pieces transcend the topical subject of their writings? How do they transcend the angry, political, protest piece? What makes them universal? What makes them stand against time?


Last but not least: please fill out this form for a one-on-one workshop with me for your writings and the anthology.

Please submit your work by this Sunday, Dec. 2ndThe last time to submit will be on Dec. 2nd.


The real last thing: our final workshop will be at the Oakland Cultural Art Center, Dec. 16th, 2-4pm. I’ll pass out a sign-up sheet so that we can see who’s coming and eat at a restaurant either beforehand or after the workshop in downtown Oakland.


2 responses to “Telling the Story of Our Family, Community, & Culture (Blog Discussion)

  1. The written word is a voice without sound and such a voice can travel indefinitely through the landscape of the mind. The powers that be seize upon the opportunity to write the narrative of which is carried by this soundless voice. The history of the United States although imbed with the blood of indigenous people is written upon clean white paper with no mention of genocide. We read those words and allow them to speak to us in our sleep. On the other hand the written word can become the hammer to shatter shackles that enslave. Any cry of rebellion that can be uttered without sound must surely be threatening to the powers that be.

    The power of writing endures long after the deaths of its creators. I have never thought of writers as immortal so much as I have thought of works of literature as having souls. They are living testament to bygone times as well as commentaries upon the present and future of humanity. Danticat wrote of the possible importance of writing in light of the fact that words on a page can survive generations and age like fine wine. Stories and plays from ancient Greece can have significance in Haiti thousands of years later due to the timelessness of the human experience. These stories that transcend place and time become reminders of the liberation that human kind must struggle for. Being reminded of what is important is definitely worth dying for.

  2. Evidence

    So much of the physical body is present in this week’s texts. The body lives as a document in “shelled organs,” housed within structure, surfacing through the internal language of reconstructed visions of home. A series of changes occur in bent notions, romantic ones, or “ the shiny things of war”, where home and homeland ceases to exist. The notion of home becomes the carapace of an insect, its legs the source shifting.
    Revolt ties these texts together through the inability to harness silence. The very act of witness serves as a detonator. To create a blast of words, as to say: I will not be silenced by your violence. To document this story, “I must be one who keeps things alive”.

    Risk as Writer

    I hope no one risks his or her life to read my poems, but what I do hope is that my writing may serve to save someone’s life. Or provide an opportunity for pause.


    War is transcendental. It is an act so impossible to express without the imagery of the body. The marked body is a revolt, much like the page: a gesture of protests.

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