On Wednesday December 8th, the American Cinematheque (in association with Cinema Libre Studios and the Levantine Center) held a retrospective of the films of Franco-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb at LA's Egyptian Theater. It is rare for works of Arab directors to be seen and appreciated by American audiences, and the retrospective was a testament to the power of Bouchareb's films and their ability to speak to viewers across nationalities.
Unlike the proliferation of Iranian memoirs that have been published in the last decade, Jasmin Darznik's The Good Daughter is not her own memoir, but rather "A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life." Perhaps for this reason it is not until the last fifty pages when Darznik appears as the "I" in the narrative that her prose transforms from passive to confident, plain to seasoned. Prior to this first-person transition, Darznik's writing is at times prosaic and hurried, which may be due to the author's distance from her mother, and specifically from her mother's story. It's as if she cannot entirely own the horrors of her mother's "hidden life," and consequently glosses over the characters' experiences.
When Darznik's grandmother, Kobra, is given away as a consequence of a bet her brother lost to a friend named Sohrab, the author ponders: "Whether Ali-Ahmad regretted this later no one in the family could ever say. They'd only remember that when he returned home that night with news that he'd found Kobra a suitor the news was met with unbridled glee. Kobra's sisters, themselves recently married, tittered and giggled; her aunts clucked their tongues and smiled. Sohrab was so handsome and cut such a fine figure in the neighborhood that even Pargol took Ali-Ahmad's news as a stroke of incredibly good luck."
Donia Gobar's poem is sister to the poem "Dead Are My People," in which Khalil Gibran laments his helplessness as a poet who would be more useful to the starving Lebanese (during World War I) if he were an "ear of corn." As an Afghan American engaged and emotionally involved with the situation back in Afghanistan, Gobar has written a poem that expresses the overwhelming feeling of futility in the face of these images of war. The poet is witness and in this role of witness documents abstractly the shreds of a collective experience.
As we know there has been for a long while a phenomenon in literature of "being between worlds," in which immigrant writers narrate their lives, carving out dual identities. The trend has been prominent in American literature for many decades among earlier communities—Asian, Latin, African American, Jewish.
Since 9/11—and in some cases years before—there has been a cultural and political blossoming of American writers of Arab and Iranian heritage which is now joined by those of the Afghan diaspora, especially in the United States, revealing a vibrant, active, and intellectual Afghan American community. With the success of Khaled Hosseni's The Kite Runner—the first work of fiction written by an Afghan American to become a bestseller—has come new interest in the works of other Afghan American writers. One Story, Thirty Stories (or "Afsanah, Seesaneh," the Afghan equivalent of "once upon a time") collects poetry, fiction, essays, and selections from two blogs from thirty-three men and women—poets, fiction writers, journalists, filmmakers and video artists, photographers, community leaders and organizers, and diplomats.
G. Roger Denson
guest columnist, Huffington Post
Women are known to have been active participants in the first mosques founded by Mohammad, and the prophet instructed his followers that men and women are equal before God. Yet women in many Muslim societies are separated from men not just in the mosque but in all places public while being denied many of the legal rights of men. With Islam's relationship to women under increasing scrutiny today by both progressive Muslims and the non-Muslim world, Shirin Neshat's art depicting Islamic women's collective strength and resilience in the face of misogyny and despotism reminds us that though the differences between Islamic and modern societies appear on the surface to break down to matters of faith, the deeper, truly exacerbating fault lines carve out the extent to which our cultures impose the male legislation of women and render the divide of gender inviolable.
Reza Aslan is an internationally acclaimed Iranian-American writer and scholar of religions. He has been featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, ABC, The History Channel, PBS, The Rachel Maddow Show, Meet the Press, Nightline and many more.
Dialogue with Rabbi David Wolpe and book signing following the lecture.
Free of charge and open to the public.
Please contact Dahlia Greenbaum, Program Director, at email@example.com or phone 310.481.3243.
On Sunday, January 9, 2011, Basem Ra'ad will present his recent book Hidden Histories: Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean (Pluto Books). For thousands of years, Palestine and the East Mediterranean have been subject to constant colonial interference which has denied the indigenous population an independent, authentic historical narrative. Basem L. Ra'ad, a professor at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, uncovers this history and begins the process of reconnecting it to contemporary peoples.
"A study in deep time, wide space . . . an anthropology of the present" is how Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Columbia) describes this book. Hilton Obenzinger (Stanford) calls it "a brilliant tour de force of recovery, decolonization, re-vision, and inclusivity," while Naseer Aruri (Massachusetts) considers it "the first corrective history of Palestine, its people, its region, and its culture."
Against the tumultuous backdrop of Iran's 1953 CIA- and Mi5-backed coup d'état against the democratically-elected president, Mohammad Mossadegh, the destinies of four women converge in a beautiful orchard garden, where they find independence, solace and companionship. Famed cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond will discuss the film afterward with director Shirin Neshat and the film's cinematographer, Martin Gschlacht.
Writes the New York Times, "Every frame of Women Without Men and every image within those frames attest to the background of its first-time director, Shirin Neshat, as a photographer celebrated for her explorations of Islamic gender issues. This visually transfixing film, which originated as a video installation, has the feel of an exhibition of Ms. Neshat's work whose figures have stirred to life to play out a tragic feminist allegory."
Women Without Men is Shirin Neshat's independent film adaptation of Shahrnush Parsipur's magic realist novel. The story chronicles the intertwining lives of four Iranian women during the summer of 1953; a cataclysmic moment in Iranian history when an American led, British backed coup d'état brought down the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, and reinstalled the Shah to power.
Don't miss this exclusive screening, followed by a lively film discussion and a reception.
To commemorate World Peace Day, the Whole 9 Gallery created The Peace Project exhibition. 150 artists in nearly every U.S. state and over 30 countries around the world expressed their vision of peace with these diverse art selections. The Peace Project is now on loan at the Inside/Outside Gallery, Dec. 17-30, 2010.
The exhibit opened on Friday, Dec. 17 for the Levantine Cultural Center's annual Holiday Bazaar and party. It is open daily 10 am-6 pm and will be open Thurs., Dec. 30, until 10 pm.
Individual works are priced at $75 and $150.
Visit http://www.thewhole9.com/thepeaceproject to learn more.
FUNATICAL is a new and exciting multicultural comedy mega-event that launches in Los Angeles on December 9th, 2010 with five shows throughout the southland from L.A. to Orange County. It continues on to New York City in late January 2011 and stops in Washington, D.C. early in March! Join the fun and check out the shows in town, at the world-famous Comedy Store (WeHo), the Beyond the Stars Palace (Glendale), the Los Angeles Theatre Center (downtown LA) and the Caspian (Irvine).
The tour features hilarious comedians who poke fun of stereotypes, American and Middle Eastern culture and current events, which they lampoon with humor and satire. There's the hysterical and very physical stand-up Max Amini aka the ironic Iranian; Mike Batayeh, who with his elastic facial muscles and shrewd humor lampoons all of our worst Arab stereotypes, while making fun of everyone else in the bargain; Tissa Hami, a national headliner in a hijab who stops at nothing to skewer our sacred cows, Muslim and otherwise; Noel Elgrably, the only Middle Eastern Jewish comedian featured in the New York Arab American Comedy Festival; plus one of the greatest female comedians ever to come out of Iran—Elham Jazab, who can explain why "Persian girls don't buy Persian rugs; we marry them," and tell you the difference between Al Qaeda and Hezbollah; not to mention Omar Regan and Samson Koletkar, the world's only known Indian Jewish comic. Last but not least comes Ara Basil, the hilarious yet shrewd, politically-astute Armenian comedian.