Essays Arabic Culture

When she confirms that she is in fact non-Arab and white, I make myself clear: “That’s fine.No problem that you aren’t Arab but it is a problem when you make as if your experiences or interactions with TSA, border guards, and customs have the same political, cultural, and racial ramifications as mine do.” • • • END 2 I am interested in how such conversations can be a starting point for defining the nuances and complexities of our shared (and not shared) interests as writers, editors, translators, and consumers of translated works.

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I have stopped reading the publications that partake in this commodification, but now I am looking at them with a shotgun pointed between their virtual eyes.

When I wrote about the non-profit organization Radius of Arab American Writers, Inc. And just as I ask that we interrogate the systems that give white translators ownership over our work and, thereby, our cultures, I ask the establishment: Why do you so readily see us when we are implying our ugliness (as in Joudah’s title), but not as we do in the pieces I pitched to the Poetry Foundation blog? It is selective seeing: seeing us, Arabs and people of color, when it benefits the status quo.

Where do the boundaries of cultural ownership for translators begin and end?

On different occasions I have contacted emerging women poets with interest in translating their work and have been thanked for my interest and then told that *GASP* they are already being translated by a white person.

without naming any poets who have been mistaken as Arab; 4. I am interested in showing how even an Arab can sometimes fail to see another Arab. I am interested in writing truthfully in a way that helps us see each other.

using only source quotes from published pieces about or by Arabs, of which there is a long history of intersectional writing that demonstrates how we share pain and learn from each other. How deeply unrepresented I felt by Joudah’s piece – and how in some way, even in writing this, I may be guilty of the same erasures or misrepresentations. Fleeing the aftermath of revolution, of occupation, of wars perpetrated by imperial lies. And as the body migrates it is subjected to constructs of the land it has migrated to. I am interested in burning down invented hierarchies so that we can run with easy breath toward a more just way of living together.

One of my favorites to cite: Suheir Hammad’s This is the work. Arab identities are complex, vast, multiple; as are other races and ethnicities. The Arab body is the mistaken body: mistaken for an endless list of other bodies, always Other, even when passing or presenting as white. In this country it is as if one only a body if it exists on a form, and the Arab body seems always to be writing itself in. And often when the Arab body is written in—and my years studying and practicing in the field of journalism confirm this—it is as a brief headline. The trap of identity only remains a trap if the structures we work within support it.

The Arab body is the unlisted and unconsidered body: a choice missing from most forms, absent from the U. Which brings me to the establishment: All of those ‘editors,’ most of them ill-equipped to judge our work, who readily and easily give space to poetry celebrities, often men, who have been, already, widely published.

It is 2018, and I find myself still asking the same question as I read headlines and take stock of the agendas journalists are setting; still clarifying that not all Arabs are Muslim and not all Muslims are Arab. • • • PART ONE: The Translator is Not an Ally or It Goes Down in the DMs The archive speaks for itself: After reading an interview with a translator working from a language she cannot read, write, or speak, I ask her, via direct message, the obvious: How can you translate if you don’t speak the language?

“As for the Arab Spring, I know Iran was not one of the countries but the writer refers in his poems to unrest in the region.” As to the poems being written “in Persian,” she writes that her co-translator “is Iranian and I defer to his judgment,” though she admits that she also found the terminology odd.


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