Monday, March 15, 2010

Liana Badr

I haven't been in the mood for reading, writing, or doing any of the stuff I usually enjoy at all. The dull but continuous back pain that I suffer from must have had a lot to do with this semi-depressed state I've been in for the past couple of weeks. Medications help, but they make me drowsy and somewhat dis-inhibited, two traits I can definitely do without, especially at work.

But since feeling down was becoming more painful than the back, I started taking the pain-killers. As soon as I felt better, I was eager to resume my reading homework. I am trying to meet the challenge of reading 50 or more books per year. Unfortunately, I made the fatal mistake of picking up Liana Badr's The Eye of the Mirror.  I typically never read the books' jackets cause that spoils the thrill I get from venturing into the completely mysterious territories of a new novel. I only read it if  I am not  familiar with the writer and have doubts about the quality of the book, but since I  truly enjoyed Badr's Balcony over the Fakihani, when I read it a couple of years ago, I immediately dove into the book without any doubts.

This was a stupid move. Had I known that the book was about the yearlong inhuman siege of the Tel Ezza'tar refugees camp in Beirut, and the massacre that followed, I would have opted to read a different book until I was in a better mood. In the three days it took me to finish the book, not only did I bond with Aisha, Hana, Um Jalal, & Um Hassan, I actually felt like I was one of the besieged population of this doomed camp. By the time I finished reading the book, I actually felt like I've lost several loved ones. Needless to say, this did not help me much in my attempt to snap out of the blues.

I actually sent an email to Badr telling her that this must be the first (and hopefully the last) time I feel obliged to send a "thank you" note to someone for making me miserable. She was a good sport and actually replied suggesting that I read her latest book, which she promised was much lighter than the above mentioned books.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Anti-Arab Racism in the USA

An Interesting and informative book that speaks of anti-Arab Racism in the USA, where it comes from and what it means in politics today.

It highlight the American exceptional-ism Steven Salaita experienced growing up on Appalachia (on the Virginia/West Virginia border) where there weren't many immigrant families.  He explains how he (Christian, Jordanian, Palestinian, & Latino) was never quite American enough for the folks in town, his classmates, & teachers.  How they ridiculed even the food he brought to school in his lunchbox, calling stuffed grape-leaves, little pieces of dodo.

Whenever the subject of terrorism was discussed in class, Steven was always singled out and asked about his own opinion of the subject, always assuming that an Arab will have a view that is vastly different from that of the other White Americans in the class. And that was even before 9/11.

Another vivid memory that Steven writes about is how, when he accidentally kicked a soccer ball into his xenophobic neighbor's yard, this neighbor screamed at his father about his damn Arabian children.

The book also exposes the extent of Anti-Arab Racism and its connection to the Zionist lobby in the USA, especially in academia & the media. I was most upset reading how Edward Said's death was received and covered in the popular media in the USA. 

Steven Salaita is Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Tech. To visit his website, click here.