BintElNas: Web of Dreams

Writing as Resistance, Writing as Love    Joanna Kadi


whose world?

Hunched over on a small chair in the library's corner, I'm invisible in my physical surroundings and on the pages I'm devouring. It's my usual Saturday morning extravaganza -- read until nauseated, stagger back to the house with an armful of books, snatch every free moment during the week, dive in.

Books shone brightly on the desolate landscape of my childhood, in ways both profound and basic. The provided fantasy, escape, a reality in stark contrast to the one around me. I especially loved reading about children with happy home lives and positive experiences with a friendly, bustling outside world. But equally profoundly, books, and the children who inhabited their pages, betrayed me by ignoring my world. Where was I? Where were workers? Arabs? Rarely to be found. And if found, never a good word. Stupid janitors who couldn't think, idiotic truck drivers who couldn't write, dirty Arabs who couldn't be trusted.

And still I read, still I coveted shelves full of books, still no one could offer a better present than a book. Still I carried a deeply buried and mostly jumbled desire to carve my own niche in this world. Yet I couldn't imagine anything other than renewing my library card year after year, reading someone else's stories -- entering this world of words and books and someone else's terms.

Similar feelings plague me today, after working as a writer for several years. Is there a place for me? Claiming writer status remains so difficult I can barely say the words. If I manage to, I fight the impulse to cover my mouth with my hand, the exact same motion made by toothless family members. Fear and shame prompt their gestures, and my impulse. Who ever heard of someone from a general motors city, destined for secretarial work (if a great deal of luck came her way), thinking, saying, she can write books? Who ever heard of a working-class Lebanese writer?

Writing as Resistance, Writing as Love   continued on page 2


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