The sound of thunder bothers Flake, my dog. She barks and then quickly finds a hiding place.  Usually, she will hide under the kitchen table and refuse to budge. The best thing I could do to convince her that it was safe was to join her in her cave. Once I crawled to her, I realized that she was shaking and very afraid. Heck, the sound of thunder is scary. For me, it’s beautiful and almost musical, but for Flake, I can’t imagine what it sounds like. 

And this made me think of safety and security. We all want to feel safe, and we all have a hiding place. Flake’s is the kitchen table, that’s her cave. Mine has always been within myself- my hiding place was myself. I would crawl deep inside, refuse to communicate with others, and allow myself to feel secure in the knowledge that I was unreachable. In a way, I didn’t think anyone would find me there. Life was loud and scary and I just wanted to be safe and at peace. 

You joined me in my cave, for awhile, and tried to explain that belonging to the world was okay, it was safe to be here. I needed reassurance, and you did it with such grace. And I want to do the same for you, let you know this is a safe place, and that I am your shelter, away from the rain, thunder, and if you’d rather hide in a cave, then I’ll sit by your side until you are ready to step outside again. 


The playground: class

The classroom for me is a place of endless possibilities and meaning. But in one word, it’s a playground. You play. You play with ideas, with words, with theories, with stories. You get to really say what “shouldn’t” be said. You get to expose theories that are centuries old, and relate them to today. My newest class is an American Literature class, and I am experimenting with different ways to teach it. I decided to assign the texts to students to present, and when the time came to present the work, a student asked if they were supposed to stand up or sit down while they present. Now, normally, the idea is to stand up, to vocalize, to rely on body language. But I don’t believe in this rigid way of presenting. There are multiple ways to get your ideas across. As a professor who is not always able to stand up, I understand limitations very well. So I informed him that it was up to them, not me. I am not the authority figure. I don’t want to be the authority figure. You decide whether you want to stand up or sit down, how many minutes you want to talk, and the angle you’d like to tackle.

I was met with surprised faces. And then smiles. They loved that the power was not held by one person.

“As individuals, you are all different. I want you to realize this and realize that no one can tell you how things SHOULD be done,” I insisted.

The discussion in class that day was ultimately fruitful and a success. We talked about Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark” and related it to plastic surgery nowadays, whether one should alter the body, what constitutes a flaw, nature vs. science.. it was truly endless. I had to stop the discussion at the end of class because time was up, but some of the students took the argument outside!

And the other day, I attended Dr. Hanan’s class as a student. I used to be her student 12 years ago. She introduced me to the class as an ex-student who she “messed up” years ago. Funny how I wouldn’t have it any other way. My world view was forever altered when I read Plato, Butler, Cixous, Spivak, Irigary, and many others. Sitting next to her in class reminded me of my amazing undergraduate days. The uncanny part was sitting next to her, knowing what she was about to say, how she would explain this theory or that, and being able to predict the exact wording – especially when she was explaining mimicry, Plato (her favorite), and other gender theories. As I sat there, I was overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions: nostalgia for Kuwait University days, gratitude, and happiness, knowing that I was also doing the same thing in my literature classes. Hanan’s policy has always been an open-door one, with an emphasis on participation and discussion. Twelve years ago, the classroom was the place I listened, was forced to argue, formulate my own opinion and voice, and today, it is a playground where everyone gets a taste of freedom. And how can that be anything but fun?



They say to forget is a blessing. But this is my answer today, as we grow older, day in and day out, weeks and months, a history of lifetimes:

أتمنى  ان ينساني النسيان.. ولا أنساك 

Words that I scribbled across a paper. Fold up the paper, rip it in half, ask you silently to light up my path again. The most intense type of communication is silence, across time and space. 


Fayrooz says…

 زعلي طول أنا وياك وسنين بقيت

جرب فيهن أنا إنساك ..ما قدرت نسيت

The truth is, you never really forget. And perhaps the first action is to want to forget.

Nizar’s words 

من كلمات نزار قباني:

حبك يا عميقة العينين




حبك مثل الموت والولادة

صعب بأن يعاد مرتين


عشرين ألف امرأة أحببت

عشرين ألف امرأة جربت

وعندما التقيت فيك يا حبيبتي

شعرت أني الآن قد بدأت


لقد حجزت غرفة لاثنين في بيت القمر

نقضي بها نهاية الأسبوع يا حبيبتي

فنادق العالم لا تعجبني

الفندق الذي أحب أن أسكنه هو القمر

لكنهم هنالك يا حبيبتي

لا يقبلون زائرا يأتي بغير امرأة

فهل تجيئين معي

يا قمري . . إلى القمر؟ 

Poetry Slam 2016

GUST’s English Department held its first Poetry Slam event- and it was a huge success. I was invited to be one of the Judges, alongside Nada Faris, an established writer, poet, and a friend of mine. The event was very well organized and there was great effort behind it, a colleague of mine, someone who has supported me endlessly, Ms. Ann Newman, was the head organizer of the event. She managed to put together a great team of slam poets, supporting their creativity and providing a venue for expressing poetry, ideas, and mainly, expressing voices that are sometimes muted.

My main concern was that although these poets were excited and very brave, they still struggled to speak up. I have read somewhere, I don’t recall which critic said this, but I think it was a Feminist critic (might be Cixous or Irigary) who insisted that we should listen to women speak. When women speak, they tremble. Why? Because society has silenced them for too long. I understand all of this all too well. As an undergraduate student, I always lost marks on participation grades. I was too shy, too intimdated by the entire classroom, and hated attention. Sometimes, I had so much to say, but couldn’t build up the courage to voice my opinion. Years later, I was able to slowly get over this fear. I can’t say I am an all-star speaker, but I can say, that at least it’s no longer terrifying to speak!

I loved the initiative, and I hope we can establish more forums, more venues to speak up, and as we go along, develop a stronger female voice, a collective voice that both speaks and listens to the other.


Music and Soul

I was invited to Abdulrahman Mohammed’s concert, and as I have always been a fan, I was very excited to see him live. He was spectacular. I am reminded by everything that his music takes me back to. I remember how his words used to make us cry. I remember how the poetics of it all barely captured the intensity of reality. He draws his inspiration and his lyrics from Old Arabic poetry, and he has included Qais’s (the poet) love for Laila. Qais, otherwise known as “Majnoon Laila.” In love, will anything other than madness suffice? I doubt it 🙂 Abdulrahman, like Qais, pours his soul into art. He left all of us completely awe-struck that night, and we left the stage reminiscing and wrapped in a blanket of passion, pain, and possibility. Some of his amazing words: 

قُولواْ لهّا أنني … لا زِلتُ أهواهّا

مَهمّا يطولَ النوىّ … لا أنسىّ ذِكراهَا

هيّ الَتي عَلمَتني … كيفَ اعشَقُها

هيّ الَتي سَقاتني … شَهدَ ريّاها

روحٌ مِن الله … سَوىّ لنا بَشراً

كَسىّ حُسناً … وّجمَلهّا وّحلاّهَا   

Women’s Day

International Women’s Day. A day that we celebrate, a day that is still yet to receive significant exposure. Today we think about how far we’ve come, about what still needs to be done to achieve gender equality, parity, and how we can further this agenda of women’s rights. I won’t go into the sociopolitical issues at hand, because this blog remains a personal one, but I do want to bring up a few ideas that crossed my mind.

Around me, there are beautiful, brave, strong women to celebrate. There are fighters, there are mothers, daughters, students, friends, colleagues- you name it. Each one is fighting a battle of her own. And perhaps it’s important to mention that Feminism is NOT a hatred of men, it is not us against them. At a gender parity forum today, a couple of academics and myself raised the fact that women can be hostile – they can wage wars among themselves. There is a division even between women, according to religion, social class, sect, economic position, etc.

In class the other day, I asked my students to work in pairs. I trusted that they would choose their partners efficiently, and that there would be no issues. By the time I looked up from my book, I asked if everyone had a partner. Everyone nodded and voiced “Yes.” Except for one girl. One girl who remains invisible to the rest. I’ll call her Britney, for anonymity’s sake. Britney has a mental disability, as well as a physical one. She is slightly slower than the rest, but works very hard to keep up. In fact, she tends to be the only one who reads the text before class. And yet, Britney is isolated, not spoken to. My students are adults, and yet I was suddenly reminded of how mean kids tend to be. Being picked last for the soccer team, or not being picked at all. I was reminded of how I have felt left behind way too many times in school. The utter humiliation she felt while she raised her hand to say “Me. I don’t have a partner” came crushing onto me. Some girls, unfortunately, giggled in the background. I don’t understand it and will not attempt to unravel this behavior. My reaction was: “Great. Then I’ll be your partner, Britney.” She beamed with pride. One student laughed and complained that that wasn’t “fair.”  I simply shrugged it off.

What’s not fair is the way our society insists on divisions, separations. On sexism AND ableism. What’s not fair is how we want to empower women, but continue to disempower those who are at a disadvantage in one way or another. So my pledge for today, my gender parity pledge is to continue to support those that need a helping hand. I believe it is a cycle. I was supported by wonderful and kind academics when I was an undergraduate, and today, I aim to do the same, to pay it forward.

So happy women’s day, but also – here’s to doing better.