Laila Halaby was born in Lebanon to a Jordanian father and American mother, she grew up mostly in Arizona. She is the author of two novels, West of Jordan (2003; winner of a Pen Beyond Margins Award) and Once in a Promised Land (2007). She holds an undergraduate degree in Italian and Arabic from Washington University (St Louis), she was also a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship for the study of Jordanian folklore, which resulted in a collection of Palestinian folktales for children. In addition, she also writes poetry which is highly personal, reflecting the disparity between the places and cultures she grew up within.
The Journey (1)
out of place
a single mother’s only child fatherless
blanketed in foreignness
my mother ran
from one desert to another until she found home
we were opposites in a small house me, loud and
wild with a longing
I didn’t speak fluently
she, quiet and still,
stashing her multilingual sorrows in the tool shed
she tried to teach me in American how to be
but didn’t quite get it right
left stuff out
left me uncomfortable
in my shoes
for the right pair
(excerpt from The Journey )
In this, her first collection of poetry, she uses a narrative style to explore what it means to be an outsider within your own culture, of trying to navigate between the two identities of Arab and American, and how this reflects on her as as women and as a writer. The poems in this collection span about twenty years, giving it almost the appearance of a memoir, detailing the heartaches and struggles, the dilemmas that have confronted & puzzled her, the experiences that she faced as an individual viewed as “Arab” in a post 9/11 world with all the grief and anger, all the hope that things could be better / different that went with living through such times. “My name on his tongue”, is about identity; found or lost, is about relationships; those that made it and those that fell by the wayside, it’s about war & peace and the murky wasteland that divides the two. “My name on his tongue” is a beautiful lyrical reflection, that is both personal and political as are all stories that highlight an individual’s identity and how it relates to a geographical line on a map.
After a reading by Khaled Mattawa (a Libyan poet living in the US).
Your place in the world is solid
my place in the world moves without a
is based on mishaps
my place drifts
between Here and There West and East
sometimes gets lodged In-Between
my place is a Somewhere that cannot be found
on any map
as I was Born
in a place that belonged to neither of my parents
can’t be an immigrant
if you haven’t left somewhere can’t be a native
if you’re from somewhere else which is why I'm
fluent in the language of exiled souls
(Excerpt from: After a reading by Khaled Mattawa)
Author Spotlight: Laila Halaby
Mediterranean poetry(Laila Halaby)
"...fluent in the language of exiled souls." Yes indeed, she is. Many thanks for the introduction. I will have to locate Ms. Halaby's book.ReplyDelete
Admittedly, I clicked over to your review because I thought the cover image was so compelling, but this sounds like a terrific book. Thanks for the review.ReplyDelete
Agh! I had a whole long comment and my $&/)?&@ iPhone lost it...that or the stupid person using it.ReplyDelete
Anyway, I started by saying how fascinating that she holds a degree in Italian and Arabic. Then I went on to say how wonderful the poem is about the child's discomfort. As you know, I will always believe that we are all strangers in this land; this world is not our home. I find it especially painful for children of a culture other than the one in which they're living, but I still consider it to be a universal theme. Maybe I'm over applying my own discomfort in America...
Anyway, this is a fascinating theme, and one I found so well expressed in the book Evel Knievel Days, where the hero must go from Montana to Cairo to discover "home."
Loved your post, Gary.
This sounds very good. I like her voice, it's poetical but very close to someone telling you a story.ReplyDelete
The other or outsider has always fascinated me. Ms. Halaby beautifully speaks of this and the nature of one's identity.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the review.
Hi ds, please do I think you'll relish it.ReplyDelete
Hello As the Crowe Flies and Reads, It's a great image & fully backed up by the content.
Ciao Bellezza, I have similar problems with my HTC, totally agree with the universality of the theme, you don't need to be outside of a culture to feel outside of a culture.
Hi Caroline, it is like a memoir although in poetic form.
Hi James, same here although in my case because it's a position I consider myself to have been in for a large part of my life.
Thank you so much for introducing me to these amazing poets, Parrish! I could particularly identify with the second poem, having lived my whole life away from my motherland :)ReplyDelete
Thanks for the enticing review, Parrish - migrant and marginal experiences are high on my interest list so I'll be looking out for this collection.ReplyDelete