I chatted with Other People with Brad Listi Podcast this week. It was super fun, partly because I’d never done a podcast interview before & got to be myself (=swear like a sailor). Topics discussed: Sex-positive dads, Palestine, Singing in falsetto around the house, Racism, Flâneurs. Interview starts at 6:32. Give it a listen here.
Outside the restrooms, each door bore the standard gender symbol denoting male (♂) and female (♀). She stood in front of them and said, “When I come out, I will need you to write something. Please get the notebook,” and disappeared into the women’s room.
When she finally emerged, she stood in between the two wooden doors and shouted, “See how the female symbol is docile, upright? It stands there, arms akimbo, as if asking, How can I be of use to you? How can I comfort you, help you, give of myself to further you? Meanwhile, the male symbol is virile, a penis pointing outward, always exploring, moving forward, the arrow saying, I am busy, I am important, I am on my way to conquering something, someone, somewhere.”
Growing up in Kuwait, we never had Christmas trees, but one year, my mother found a fake one about two feet tall and, although we had nothing to decorate it with, we improvised and posed “underneath” it for pictures. When we moved to the States, my mother began buying fresh trees every December and decking them out. Her mother was a Greek Alexandrian and so my mother had grown up celebrating Christmas. Sometimes I imagine how lonely my grandmother must have gotten in the Fifties and Sixties after her friends and family moved away to all corners of the globe, since Nasser’s Egypt had no room for “foreigners.” I imagine she was lonely. So, once every few years, I get inspired to pick up a fresh Christmas tree– here in Central California I assume these trees come from the Sierras. We light candles, bust out the Latin edition of Dr. Seuss’s Grinch, listen to the It’s a Charlie Brown Xmas album, and decorate the tree with Dollar Store ornaments, since I don’t want to buy too much into the Capitalist Xmas Frenzy. It’s festive and pagan and helps me honor my kid self, who always loved the idea of a Xmas tree, and my Yia Yia, who I never met, but whom I’m told was a badass. Happy holidays, everyone.
My son on 9/11 was told lies by his white teacher & for years, when flying solo between my home in TX & his father’s in NY, was terrified of Arab terrorists.
Now, he knows better.
He knows better because he was selected randomly for a screening at the age of seven.
He knows better because his uncle was almost deported & sat in jail for months.
He knows better because in his lifetime, wars have begun & kids who look like him have died in Iraq, in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Afghanistan, & in Yemen, in Pakistan, soon, in Syria.
He knows better because he hasn’t told any of his friends he’s Arab.
To be Arab-American is to be reminded every single day, including today, of one’s unbelonging, of how where one is “from” is where war is always heading.
This week, I taught my first set of classes– I’m teaching a graphic novels class to graduate students, and an MFA workshop. So far, my students are lovely. I adore them, and I’m excited to read and write and discuss writing with them.
The funniest part of being a professor, I think, is the bureaucratic element. This is the aspect of teaching that is not often spoken of– committees, meetings, paperwork, etc– but can take up as much time as the teaching and the prepping. I’ve found the best way to deal with this is the way I deal with almost everything- with humor. So here’s a picture of me handing paperwork to a skeleton in the nearby Anthropology department, where a committee I’m in held a meeting.
Good luck to everyone out there who is teaching or taking classes or working on a writing project. Fall can be such a wild & inspiring time.
I recently visited Buenos Aires for a week to celebrate the beginning of Summer. There, I went to incredible cafes, like Tortoni, and saw El Ateneo, a gorgeous bookstore in a 20′s cinema palace. I also saw a room lined with unicorn heads, Evita’s tomb at the Recoleta cemetery, a statue of Mafalda, one of my comic book sheros, and visited the Teatro Colon as well as museums such as the MALBA and the PROA. Traveling makes me feel alive, and inspires and informs my writing. As challenging as writing a book is, there’s nothing like taking a trip away from it to see it, and yourself, anew.
I bought a bar of soap, nice, Dead Sea soap, made in Jordan, for my son’s bathroom back in late February.
The bar of soap is still there. About half-way used, but still there.