“In Min Fami, Ghadeer Malek and Ghaida Moussa have gathered together powerful literary and political analyses, moving fiction, personal essays, and visual art, fierce and loving poetry — work by Arab women from the world over — who inscribe this moment in its dense and hewn multiplicities, who refuse its violence and excavate its violent erasures, and holding faith with over one hundred years of Arab feminisms, who turn toward that which cannot be known, and that which yet must be faced. This book is extraordinary, passionate, and hopeful, even as it knows its work is battle and mourning as much as making a space for being and beauty.”
- Trish Salah, Author of Wanting in Arabic and Lyric Sexology, Vol. 1
“How does one grapple with the loss of home and homeland? How does one remember beyond memory and history? How does one read, dream, and write in another tongue? In a moving and poignant collection of essays, poems, short stories, and photographs, Min Fami: Arab Women’s Reflections on Identity, Space and Resistance articulates these questions and more. Insisting on fluidity and openness, the editors do not impose an easy or comfortable linear order. Instead, they invite readers to delve into intimate snapshots of Arab women’s lives as they are felt, experienced, and expressed through their words and from their mouths. Min Fami continues a powerful tradition of Arab women’s writings that draw inspiration from feminist, critical race, and anti-colonial theories and practices. It is a compelling and provocative work that resonates with our dreams for collective change, just liberation, and transformative futures.”
- Dana M. Olwan, Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at Syracuse University, New York
Azza Abbaro is a Visual Communication/Graphic Design Consultant with an ma in Professional Communication from Ryerson University, and an Hon. ba in Visual Studies from University of Toronto. Her creative vision is to translate the work of individuals, grassroots movements, and organizations into the appropriate media to help to raise awareness, generate dialogue, and inspire positive action (azzaabbaro.carbonmade.com). A self-proclaimed third-culture-kid, Azza is a nomad at heart and hopes to continue this work wherever in the world she goes.
Nayrouz Abu Hatoum is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Social Anthropology at York University in Toronto, Canada. Her doctoral research explores the “presence” and “absence” of the apartheid wall in the Israeli visual and discursive landscape. Her previous and current research focuses on the concepts of borders and violence. She has published articles in Arabic and English in several newspapers, among them Al-Akhbar and Sawt al Niswa feminist webspace.
Laila Ait Bouchtba’s love for the art of photography started at an early age. By the time she was six years old, she used to secretly take her family’s camera and take photos of anything and everything. The shape, buttons and the mechanics of the magical black box fascinated her. Not many families could afford a camera, as this was a big luxury for a middle class family like hers. They only used their camera in special festivities, as it was the case for most Moroccan families who had one. Her love for the camera was no longer a secret. She recalls that at the age of twelve, it was the Muslim feast of Eid, and her family was very upset because she used all the remaining frames loaded to the family’s camera. Her fascination with photography grew even bigger as she used to see tourists taking snap shots of her town. The big break finally came through at fourteen years old, when her mother gave her a camera as a present. This changed her life forever. She remembers photographing everything, especially places. Now, photography reflects her inner soul, her thoughts, her feelings, and desires, and it helps her express her points of view. She likes to cross different mediums together. She uses Arabic calligraphy that she writes on faces and human figures so that photos become more “readable.” In her view, photos and words complete each other well. They certainly make a sensible transition towards understanding different layers within fine Arts. Besides, she writes the Arabic words herself to add the artistic quality of the photo, linking shapes and shades to precise forms and poetic words. She mostly takes self–portraits and this can prove to be very challenging. She is not very keen on fancy gear as her photos are taken with inexpensive cameras. She also like to keep things simple technically and esthetically. Find her art work at http://www.aitbouchtbalaila.com.
Miral al-Tahawy is an award-winning novelist, and an Assistant Professor of Modern Arabic literature at Arizona State University in the School of International Letters and Cultures. Her latest novel, Brooklyn Heights, was shortlisted for the 2011 International Prize for Arabic Fiction—the “Arab Booker Prize”—and it won the 2010 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. Brooklyn Heights was recently translated into English and was named “Best Novel” for 2011 by Arabic Literature (in English). Al-Tahawy has written a collection of short stories and three other novels, all of which have won acclaim. Her first novel, The Tent (Al-Khibaa), published in 1996, was selected as the best literary work in a critic’s questionnaire and has been translated into English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Hindi, Urdu and Dutch, among other languages. Her second novel, The Blue Aubergine (Al-Badhingana al-zarqa), won a prize for the youngest female novelist in Egypt. Her third, Gazelle Tracks (Naquarat al-Zibae), was awarded the Best Novel of the Year prize at the Cairo Book Fair.
Jacinthe A. Assaad is an Egyptian feminist, poet, and academic. She is currently finishing her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Washington. Her dissertation, entitled Plagued Narratives and The Unseen: Imaging the Revolution, Imagining the Nation, explores contemporary Egyptian cinema and representations of identity and citizenship. She is also interested in how women are imagined, represented and embodied in recent Egyptian films, and how that affects the national imaginary. Personally, she doesn’t discriminate between books and shoes.
Ghada Chehade is an award-winning poet, political and social analyst, activist, and academic living in Montreal. She holds a Ph.D. from McGill University and is currently publishing a book on anti-terrorism legislation and the criminalization of dissent. Ghada was born in Egypt and moved to Canada at a very young age. The daughter of a Palestinian refugee, she is engaged in the global Palestinian struggle for self-determination and to end the occupation. She is also engaged in global social justice advocacy. Ghada has long had a passion for writing, both the rigorous and researched as well as the creative and artistic. Today, she expresses her views on the state of the world analytically, through articles, essays and a forthcoming book and artistically, through performance poetry and spoken word. As an analyst and alternative media writer, she publishes frequently on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and has written extensively on the Egyptian uprising(s). As a poet, she has performed in Canada, the U.S. and the Middle East and her poems have been published in North America as well as online. For more information, visit: ghadachehade.com.
Amal Eqeiq is a native Palestinian born in the city of Al-Taybeh. She is a writer, a scholar, an activist and an occasional poet. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington. The title of her dissertation is Writing the Indigenous: Contemporary Mayan Literature in Chiapas, Mexico and Palestinian Literature in Israel. Currently, she is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at Williams College. Her research interests include: Modern Arab Literature and Popular Culture, Palestinian Studies, Feminism(s), Performance Studies, Translation, Indigenous Studies in the Americas, Literature of the Global South and Creative Writing. Amal is the receipt of several fellowships and awards, including a writing residency at Hedgebrook: Women Authoring Change, a dissertation fellowship from the American Association of Univeristy Women and the Dean’s Medal in Humanities from the Univeristy of Washington.
Dina El Dessouky was born in 1981 in Hamburg, Germany to parents from Cairo, Egypt. She immigrated to the United States at age three. Her family moved to northern California when she was eight, and France, Tahiti, Spain, and Hawai‘i have also been formative places for her; Dina is local to no particular landmass. Dina completed a doctorate in Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her dissertation focuses on contemporary Indigenous Oceanic literature and activism. Dina’s work has appeared in Arabesques Review, Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment, and Kurungabaa: A Journal Of Literature, History, and Ideas from the Sea.
Nehal El-Hadi is a writer, social researcher and cultural producer. Her work explores the intersections of, and interactions between, narrative, embodiment, technology and the city. She lives and works in Toronto, Canada.
Amal El-Mohtar is an Ottawa-born Lebanese-Canadian, currently living in Glasgow. She is a two-time winner of the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem, and has been nominated for the Nebula award. She is the author of The Honey Month, a collection of poetry and prose written to the taste of twenty-eight different kinds of honey; her poems have also appeared in multiple venues online and in print, including Stone Telling, Welcome to Bordertown, Mythic Delirium, and most recently The Moment of Change, an anthology of feminist speculative poems. She also edits Goblin Fruit, an online quarterly dedicated to fantastical poetry. You can find her online at http://amalelmohtar.com.
Nawar Al-Hassan Golley is an Associate Professor in literary and critical theory and gender and women’s studies at the American University of Sharjah, uae. She is the author of, Reading Arab Women’s Autobiographies. Shahrazad Tells her Story (Texas University Press: 2003) and the editor of Arab Women’s Lives Retold. Exploring Identity Through Writing (Syracuse University Press: 2007) and Mapping Arab Women’s Movements: A Century of Transformations from Within (American University in Cairo Press: 2012). She is the founding Director of the Unites Arab Emirates Gender and Women’s Studies Consortium and organizer of its first conference on Gender and Women’s Studies in the Arab Region (March7-9, 2012). She has organized several international conferences and has presented many papers at international conferences such as the Berkshire on the History of Women, National Women’s Studies Association (nwsa) and the Middle East Studies Association (mesa). She has published many book chapters and articles in prestigious scholarly journals, and translated several literary and critical works by writers such as Adonis, Edward Said, Etel Adnan, and others. Her research interests are in Critical and Literary Theory, Post-Colonial Literatures and Discourses, Feminism and Women’s Studies, Arab Women’s Writings, Autobiography, and Modern Arabic Literature.
Inaam studied in the faculty of Social Science and Humanities, the departments of Social Community Education and Communication in Haifa, Israel. She is an advocate for women and lgbtqi rights. She joined Aswat–Palestinian lgbtqi women in 2004 and has been an active member ever since.
Yafa Jarrar was born in Jerusalem and raised in the Occupied Palestinian city of Ramallah. She moved to Canada in 2003 to attend Lester B. Pearson College of the pacific. Yafa completed her Bachelor’s degree in International Development Studies and Political Studies from Trent University, and her ma in Political Science from Carleton University. Influenced by her own lived experience and upbringing under Israeli Military Occupation and Apartheid policies, where she witnessed the arrests of both her parents numerous times, and endured the effects of torture on her father in Israeli military prisons, Yafa became involved in social and global justice activism at a very young age. Yafa’s current research focuses on resistance literature and the role of the intellectual within liberation movements.
Salam Jeghbir identifies as a Palestinian Queer and two-spirited womyn interested in identity, memory and the environment. Her work is mostly visual arts, such as paintings, clay sculptures, cross-stiching, pencil drawings and artwork using natural materials such as oloive tree brances and flowers from her grandmother’s house in Nablus. She is currently working on a collection that includes a visual multi-media olive tree study. Salam is based in Toronto.
Afaf (Effat) Jamil Khogeer is an Associate Professor of English Literature, in the Department of English at Umm Al-Qura University, Holy Makkah, Saudi Arabia. She received her ba and ma in English from Oregon State University, U.S. and her Ph.D. in English Literature from the Women’s Faculty of Arts, with a major in fiction and women’s literature in twentieth-century Britain. She has been a Visiting Scholar in some universities in Canada, in the U.S. and the uk. She has published quite a number of articles in the fields of literary criticism, translation, women’s literature, the short story, the novel, comparative studies on English, American, Saudi Arabian and Canadian literature. Her published works include a book, Integration of the Self: Women in the Fiction of Iris Murdoch and Margaret Drabble, and numerous scholarly articles, including “Translating Poetry: Is it a Creative Translation or a Translation of Creativity?” “A Deconstructive Reading of Muriel Spark’s Novel, The Public Image,” “A Bildungsroman Interpretation of M. A. Yamani’s novel, A Boy From Makkah,” “Saudi Literature and Electronic Creativity,” “Self-Definition in Women’s Literature: A Comparative Analysis of Saudi Arabian Women Short Story Writers and their American Counterparts,” “Globalization: National Identity and Cultural Hybridization in Late 20th Century and 21st Century Novels,” and “Translating Children’s Literature and Its Impact on the Child’s Intellectual and Educational Growth.”
Ghadeer Malek is a Palestinian feminist activist, aspiring writer and spoken word poet. She immigrated to Toronto in 2003 to study at the University of Toronto where she was active in student movements in support of Palestinian human rights and justice. She graduated with an honours bachelor degree in History and Middle Eastern studies after which she joined the Association of Women’s Right in Development (awid). She currently coordinates the Young Feminist Activism (yfa) Program at awid and is looking forward to pursuing a Master’s degree at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (oise) at the University of Toronto starting in the Fall of 2013. Ghadeer is also co-founder and editor of aqsaZine, an art collective of young progressive and critical Muslim women passionate about combating gender-based violence through art. Ghadeer’s poetry has been published in Feminism for real and Shameless Magazine. She has also performed at a number of community and university events including Mayworks, Ryerson’s Women’s Day, York University and at the Art Gallery of Ontario (ago).
Since 2010, Rauda Morcos is a Law school student in Haifa. Since 2008, she has been working as Regional and Community organizer in the mena region-MantiQitna. In 2009, Rauda and a group of activists together established Qamb mantiQitna—a dynamic grassroots platform, created by and for the support of individuals and groups active in the area of sexual rights, gender, and sexualities. It is a space where they can continue to grow and nurture each other as activists for social justice. Rauda is a passionate and articulate political activist and poet from Kofer Yassif, a Palestinian village in the north of Galilee. Since 1993, she has been an advocate in women’s and feminist organizations and anti-occupation movements. In 2003, Rauda co-founded together with eight women the primary building blocks to initiate Aswat, a pioneer group of young Palestinian gay women that is working to legitimize an expression of women’s sexuality through advocacy, education, empowerment and outreach programs. Aswat is further articulating a Palestinian feminism that encompasses gendered and national struggles against oppression. Aswat offers an open, safe, and welcoming environment where Palestinian gay women can discuss their national, gender and sexual identity. Aswat is currently networking with regional Palestinian ngos, and establishing cooperation with similar groups from the Arab world. Rauda became the general coordinator of Aswat in 2004 until the end of 2008. Rauda is an intensely progressive figure, she was the first Arab Palestinian women to “come out of the closet” and assert herself publically as a Lesbian Queer woman. Her courage and willingness to share herself publically is, in itself, a show of enormous support for all Palestinian gay women. She has, through her work with Aswat, put the issue of homosexuality and lesbianism on the Palestinian social agenda. She is the recipient of the 2007 iglhrc’s Felipa de Souza Award.
Ghaida Moussa is a scholar, educator, and dj, who is passionately drawn to creative articulations of resistance, identity, memory, and space. She holds a bi-disciplinary Master’s degree in International Development and Global Studies, and Women’s Studies from the University of Ottawa. Her Master’s thesis, “Narrative (sub)Versions: How Queer Palestinian Womyn ‘Queer’ Palestinian Identity,” focused on narrative and creative resistance by queer Palestinian womyn in response to national, colonial, and neocolonial mainstream oppressive discourses. She is currently undertaking her Ph.D. in Social and Political Thought at York University in Toronto, Canada. The past couple of years, she has been devoted to translating anti-colonial notions onto dance floors, thinking through “home” in the cracks between anchored locations and collective memory, and practicing pedagogy from the heart in the classroom and in alternate spaces of education.
Lana Nasser (Jordanian and American), is an award-winning playwright, international performing artist, and translator. Co-Founder of Aat Network, she serves as Festival Director for Aat’s annual International Women’s Day Festival in Jordan. With a Masters in Consciousness Studies, and a ba Cum Laude in Psychology and Fine Arts, she leads empowerment and creative self expression programs for youth and women.
Jihan Rabah is a doctoral student in Educational Studies at Concordia University. She currently holds the David Azrieli Graduate Fellowship. She was also the recipient of Judy and Morris Fish’s Graduate Scholarship in Education. Her academic degrees consist of a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration, both from the American University of Beirut. In addition, she holds a certificate in Project Management from McGill University and is specialized in educating students with needs, with a two-year postgraduate diploma in Special Education. Rabah recently joined a research program at Université du Québec à Montréal on Arab women’s agency and use of social media as a strategy of resilience from gender-based violence.
Christine Rezk was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt. She attended Alexandria University where she received her ba in English Literature. Directly following her undergraduate matriculation, Christine worked as an English instructor at Amideast, which is a non-profit American organization that fosters understanding between Americans and people of the Middle East. In 2007, Christine moved to Ohio, U.S., where she became a graduate student at Wright State University with a focus in Postcolonial theory. She was recently accepted into University of Cincinnati’s doctoral program.
Laylan Saadaldin was born in Baghdad to Kurdish parents and moved to the U.S. when she was four years old. She studied English Literature at the University of South Florida and went on to complete an ma in Arabic Literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. She has since taught English Composition and Literature at the American University of Iraq-Sulaymaniah for a year. She also worked on side translations of novel excerpts, poetry, and short stories from Arabic to English. She is currently working on her own collection of short stories.
Jordanian born Rawia Sabella is an artist whose work involves painting using a variety of different mediums and techniques. In 1995 Sabella moved from Amman to the italian city of Siena where she lived for eight years. After attending and graduating with a b.s. in Archaeology, Sabella collaborated with her university in numerous excavations and international projects. In 2003 Sabella relocated to San Francisco where she built her true passion for art. Her work has been shown in different cafe’s, galleries, and in the village Abbey of Caunes-Minervois, France after attending a painting workshop with reviews in local papers. Currently Sabella resides in her birth city Amman, Jordan.
Samira Saraya was born in Haifa in 1975. Samira is a feminist lgbtqi Palestinian activist since 2001. In 2003, Samira participated in the foundation of Aswat-Palestinian Gay women and served as a board member from 2005-2008. She was Aswat’s general coordinator since 2008-2009. Samira holds a B.Sc. in nursing and currently is a clinic manager of the International Center for Cell Therapy and Cancer Immunotherapy in Tel-Aviv. Samira is an actress and a Rap artist who composes and writes her own lyrics. Samira believes that the world can be a better place if every one of us treated life and people as he/she want to be treated.
Abdelmajid Ridouane did his undergraduate studies at the Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, Ibn Zohr University in Agadir. After he earned his ba, he was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship and did his ma at Michigan State University, Michigan in 1994, and majored in Theatre and Drama in 1996. His career was in the following years focused mostly around theatre arts and performance. He toured in Morocco and Europe as an actor, author of short plays, and a theatre director. In 2000, he turned to teaching English with Drama in Italy. In 2001, he went to Morocco and worked for well-established Language schools. He also worked as a supply teacher for the department of English Studies at the Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences. In 2008, he earned another ma in Postcolonial and Cultural Studies. He worked in Oman for the following two years as a lecturer in Gulf College, Muscat, Oman. He was simultaneously doing his doctoral studies. He earned his Ph.D. in 2012.
Maha Sallam was born in Cairo. She was enrolled at the American College for Girls in Cairo and was at the top of her class till she got her High School Certificate (Thanaweyya 3amma) in 1974. Although studying English Literature was (and still is) her passion, she joined the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University in obedience to her father’s wishes. She graduated in 1980, got her Master’s degree in Internal Medicine in 1984, and practiced medicine for some years. She got married, had two children, and stayed at home for five years devoted to childcare. Encouraged by her husband, she embarked on a change of career and joined the Department of English Language and Literature, Faculty of Arts at Ain Shams University, where she got her ba with honours in 2000, her ma in 2003, and her Ph.D. in English Literature in 2005. She has published around fourteen papers (on novels, drama, comparative literature) in various academic journals and participated in a number of international conferences in the field of literature. Currently she is an assistant professor of English Literature in the Faculty of Arts at Ain Shams University, and she has been working at the Girls College of Arts at the University of Dammam, Saudi Arabia since October 2009.
Laila Suidan is an artist and ecosystem steward who aims to channel and enhance the complex beauty of the world. She is grateful to be part of an inspiring community of creative and brilliant people who challenge themselves and others to grow. Laila is mixed Palestinian and Irish-American and lives in Seattle, where she’s been learning to love life through a dozen shades of gray.
Shahd Wadi is Palestinian among other possibilities, but the resistance is mostly Palestinian. She has just finished her doctoral dissertation in Feminist Studies at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. Her dissertation, entitled Bodies in a Bundle: Artistic-Life-Stories of Palestinian Women in Exile, addresses the narratives and representations of women’s bodies in cultural and artistic contemporary creations as simultaneously silence and site of resistance in the context of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In her research, she considers art a life testimony, also hers. She has a Master’s degree in the same area with a thesis entitled “Feminisms of Occupied Bodies: Palestinian Women between Two Resistances.” She currently lives in Lisbon.
Rachida Yassine is professor of English and Cultural Studies at Ibn Zohr University, Morocco. She is the coordinator of the doctoral program in Race, Ethnicity, and Alterity in Literature and Culture and the director of the research team “Études Féminines au Sud du Maroc” at the Research Centre of Ibn Zohr University. She earned a Ph.D. in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies from the University of Nottingham, uk; an ma in Linguistics and Translation from the University of Bath, uk; an ma in English and American Literature, and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Comparative Literature from the University of Essex, uk. She is the author of Re-writing the Canon: Aspects of Identity Reconstitution in Postcolonial Contexts (2011). She has published several articles on colonial and postcolonial literatures, postcolonial feminism, Arab women writings, and cultural studies. Her present research interests include critical theory and cultural studies, Arab feminism, gender and women’s studies, comparative literature.
Maha Zimmo’s family came to Canada when she was four-years-old and still malleable to her parents’ will. They are Muslim, Palestinian, and she was born in Libya; essentially, her identity is where all Axis of Evil points converge. She has written at Prolific Immigrant (http://www.onefemalecanuck.com) since 2004, is the resident Know-It-All at Chai Latte Diaries (http://www.facebook.com/chailattediaries), and has also covered Middle Eastern news stories for several progressive news sites on-line, her favourite being Rabble.com. Her storytelling inclinations lean left toward the impassioned, philosophical and lunatic side of funny, thought-provoking stuffs, and she is single. (This last, her mum insisted she include.)
Hassan Zrizi is a Professor and researcher in the School of Humanities at Hassan ii University, in Mohammedia, Morocco. He has contributed to many national and international conferences and seminars and also published many papers, both in Arabic and English, on postcolonial African literature and women’s writings. He has also participated with scholars from the Arab world in the translation of the World Book Encyclopedia from English into Arabic. He has also co-translated Joan Wallach Scott’s The Politics of the Veil, and Maggie Humm’s Feminist Criticism. He has published two pieces of fiction: Jomana (2006) and Back to Bahja (2010).
Geography and its Boundary-Conditions
In Min Fami: Arab Feminist Reflections on Identity, Space and Resistance, editors Ghadeer Malek and Ghaida Moussa compile a compelling and thought-provoking collection of essays, fiction, poetry, and photographs that historicize the lives of Arab women around the world. Calling for historical, geographical, cultural and socio-political specificity, Min Fami is nuanced in its treatment of Arab feminisms and the complexity of women’s lived experiences. In contrast to Min Fami’s transnational focus on political struggle and agency, Don Chapman’s The Lost Canadians: A Struggle for Citizenship Rights, Equality, and Identity localizes the abnegation of rights in the Canadian context. The Lost Canadiansis a rant against political and bureaucratic inefficiency, as Chapman outlines the creation of an entire group of stateless people through the 1947 Canadian Citizenship Act. What follows is a detailed account of Chapman’s struggle to change the terrain of citizenship in Canada.
One of Min Fami‘s major tasks is to trouble a singular understanding of feminism; feminism becomes a transnational phenomenon in the text, taking shape differently in different political moments and spaces. As Jihan Rabah asserts, “The forces behind peoples’ acts are located in the spaces or the countries they have occupied. Therefore, the reality of my oppression may be entangled in transnational forces and spaces as much as in specific geographical locations or other social, political, and economic factors.” For Rabah, Arab feminisms can never be understood in the singular; rather they are plural in praxis and practice, emerging out of geographical specificity and every woman’s unique experiences. Malek and Moussa’s choice to include a diverse selection of works mirrors this emphasis on the plural, as form and language create unruly spaces of creative and creative response to this multiplicity. One poignant example of this desire to create space in language is Rauda Marcos’ poem “Departing a City.” Writing evocatively of how the violence she experiences becomes her body’s knowledge, she asserts, “The city of my presence I am leaving you / I am displaced in my land . . . / Illegal in every place / Even my identity does not exist / Without ‘status’ or poems.” Subjectivity emerges through poems here—if not through the legal trail associated with having “status” in a country. This focus on how geography is interlaced with identity in all its forms—be it legal, social or political—is a preoccupation taken up in the rest of the text.
Space is far from being a stable configuration in Min Fami, since its writers and artists tackle spatial dynamics as layered and shifting forms of power. Consequently, Min Fami thinks through imaginative geographies and the boundaries of borders, to reflect on the ways in which gendering folds into space. One example of this focus is Jacinthe A. Assad’s fascinating article, in which she argues that women as artists must employ emergent spaces of representation in order to exercise agency in Egypt. While Assad tackles the notion of representation as space, Nayrouz Abu Hatoum considers the bordering effects of Israeli rule for Palestinians in her work. Hatoum’s brilliant personal essay explores the visual and imaginative disruption that accompanies the fracturing of space, and yet she writes how, “even though the state does not contain me, the land always will.” The bordering effects of occupation, Hatoum reflects, have a doubling effect on women who have been both “socially and symbolically confined to endless boundaries” as they cross through Israeli borders that are “bureaucratic, physical, racial, national, economic, based on citizenship, underground, areal or aerial.” In this sense, borders extend beyond the physical to reshape social relations and thus create new ways of imagining belonging.
While in Min Fami space and place become the boundary-conditions where belonging is lost, The Lost Canadians shows how the categories of gender, race and nationality can come together to adjudicate the legal doctrine of citizenship. Dwelling on another set of narratives about displacement and loss, Chapman explains how provisions in the 1947 Canadian Citizenship Act left an estimated one million people without Canadian citizenship. Some of these cases include women who married non-Canadians, thus losing their citizenship because they were seen as extensions of their husbands’ legal identities. Some people became stateless when, as children, their parents became citizens of another country. Outlining his years of political activism on Parliament Hill, Chapman offers insight into some of these individual stories, ultimately arguing for a more inclusive notion of Canadian citizenship.
One thing that Lost Canadians has in common with Min Fami is that it, too, draws attention to national borders, and the ways in which such borders re-articulate social connections that typically cut across borders. For instance, in these stories, the Canadian-American border functions as a prominent signifier for many Lost Canadians, often undercutting individuals’ sense of belonging. One such example of a First Nations family illustrates how border politics violate the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples to sovereignty and mobility. As Heather Harnois writes in a letter to Chapman: “I am part of generations of Canadian aboriginals . . . Unfortunately, I was born in the USA. (Indians have the right to live or work in either country—Canada or USA by way of treaty.) . . . My mother moved me to Canada when I was a child to be near the rest of our family . . . . but after turning age 18 I was no longer allowed to be here.” As Harnois explains, the Indian Registration Act, together with the Citizenship Act, construct her lack of status in Canada.
Another letter, from Donovan McGlaughlin to Chapman, also sheds light on the colonial history of identity documents such as birth certificates. As McGlaughlin reveals, registering births meant that authorities would be able to remove Indigenous children from their families and send them to Residential schools: “My mother and father were victims of the Residential schools. In 1954 they knew the only way to keep me from being also rounded up and taken away . . . was not to register my birth . . . . I have never had a real job before because I have no SIN, no driver’s licence, no birth certificate . . . . what I need is the right to be a person.” McGlaughlin’s case draws attention to not only how legal identity is interwoven with the social, but also the systemic forms of bureaucratic violence faced by First Nations communities in Canada. Indeed, although Chapman outlines at length how, included in the Lost Canadians category are Second World War veterans, war brides and children, and people born on military bases abroad, the Harnois and McGlaughlin examples perhaps best highlight Canadian citizenship’s colonial legacy.
Thus, both Min Fami and The Lost Canadians explore how imaginative geographies—or spaces as places of belonging—can challenge border practices and the states that impose them. In highlighting the plurality of Arab feminisms, Malek and Moussa invest in a remarkable critical project. By contrast, one drawback of The Lost Canadians is the text’s persistent comparison of those who are born Canadians and those (immigrants) who become Canadian, a comparison that overlooks the dangers of citizenship as a two-tiered system.
This review “Geography and its Boundary-Conditions” originally appeared in Emerging Scholars. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 226 (Autumn 2015): 144-46.
Generally About Books Blog - May 31, 2014
reviewed by Mayank Bhatt
The Western media shapes the world’s perceptions about different regions and cultures. By focusing on conflict, and being ideologically partisan in its coverage of events, it creates stereotypes that it nurtures by ad nauseam repetition.
In case of the Middle East (a wholly inaccurate and inappropriate geographical description coined by the West), the region has always been depicted as “dangerous” place.
The depiction of Arabs has changed over the years, but continues to remain largely negative.
Arabs were oil rich in the past, then turned fanatic some time ago, and these days are rebellious, especially in the spring (and that, the Western media has decided, is a good thing).
Arab women were and are backward, and perennially voiceless.
Recently, I attended the launch of Min Fami – a book that comprehensively shatters these myths, about the region, the language, the people and especially the women.
Published by InannaPublications and Education Inc. Min Fami– Arab Femnist Reflections on Identity, Space and Resistance is edited by Ghadeer Malek and Ghaida Moussa.
Min Fami means from my mouth in Arabic. It is a book is about finding a voice and giving voice; it is an anthology of poetry, creative non-fiction, searing fiction, academic and political essays, and visual art by Arab women.
Arab Woman, a poem in the collection by Montreal-based Ghada Chehade eloquently frames the issue identity:
Orientalized through colonial eyes
I AM AN ARAB WOMAN
Understood out of context, like a tale from an ignorant mind
I AM AN ARAB WOMAN
I have selected some of the passages that I enjoyed from the book and posted them here: Select Passages from Min Fami
These passages give a glimpse of the exquisite creativity that has been collected and compiled in this volume.
If there can ever be one book that can serve as an introduction to contemporary Arab world (and not just contemporary Arab feminism), it is clearly this book because even if the essays, the poems and the art represent an individual’s worldview, collectively, they are draw an accurate portrait of the Arab world today.
And even though the creations in the collection are pronouncedly feminist (or perhaps because of it), the anthology succeeds in transcending ideological parameters and has an innately universal appeal.
Through the Fog
Abu Samir’s Pigeons, Khalil, Palestine
spines from the prickly pears
Girls As Women
Mother-Daughter Relationships in Canadian and Arab Women’s Literature
Afaf Jamil Khogeer
London by Self Tour
Dina El Dessouky
Je suis ma grand-mère / I am my grandmother
Laila Ait Bouchtba
A Feminist Regeneration
Nawar Al-Hassan Golley
Leila Ahmed’s A Border Passage: From Cairo to America— A Woman’s Journey: An Ambulant Voice Restructuring Borders Between Difference and Similitude
Living in Sin
Electricity and Palestinian Virgins
Stories I have (been) told
Laila Ait Bouchtba
Song for an Ancient City
Polymorphous Revolution and Naked Bodies: A New Expression of Dissidence in Egypt
Jacinthe A. Assaad
Hyperreal Matriarchies in Raja Alem’s The Doves’ Necklace
city slashed my heart so I slashed this poem
Trajectories of Crossings
Nayrouz Abu Hatoum
Departing a City
Ain’t I a Palestinian Woman? Artistic Bodies Finding Home at the Borders
Reconstructing Hudud: Using Stereotypes in Fatima Mernissi’s Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood
A Childhood Photograph
Liberation from Within
Ghadeer Malek and Ghaida Moussa
The Apple and the Snake Peel
“Aat” and the apple peel
A Voice from Aswat
Hidden Voice: Women’s Writing as a Question of Feminism
Re-locating the Feminine: Moroccan Women’s Writings
My Colonized Tongue
How I Am Theorized as the “Other”: A Self-Reflexive Narrative of a Transnational Arab Woman
Hanane – The Hands that Raise Me Up
Assia Djebar’s Recasting of Delacroix’s Femmes d’Alger dans leur Appartement: A Subversive Postcolonial/Feminist Counter-Representation
Palestinian Women Freedom Fighters
I Am a Tear in Your Heart
A Rant by Me Because I Exist