Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists By Joanna Kadi

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    Loved it! Wished I had read this in college! We need an updated version! Joanna Kadi This is my favorite book. Period.

    Every time I've tried to sit down and write a review for this volume, I've given up because there's so much to say. I loved every page of it from the introduction to the index. The recipes made me smile at the beginning of each chapter, and made it more real: someone who eats hummus and lebheh and tabouleh is writing about feminism. In fact, a lot of someones who eat hummus and lebneh and tabouleh wrote about feminism. The many personal essays and poems in this piece individually and collectively spoke to me in a way that no other piece of literature has. Even though I read it years ago, I frequently find myself thinking back to this anthology. As a result, my copy has accumulated a lot of annotations and highlights.

    Before reading Food for Our Grandmothers I had almost no knowledge of Arab American feminism, and I was incredibly surprised to find such a diverse array of contributors (Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Muslims, Jews... Levantines, North Africans, Gulf Arabs... And even Armenians and an Iranian).

    Perhaps the most significant piece for me was Crossing Over to the Other Side by Martha Ani Boudakian. As one of two Armenian contributors to the anthology, she delved deep into the discomfort of being a light-skinned, several-generations American person of (Christian) Middle Eastern ancestry in a way that I've never seen before, and have not come across again. When Armenian friends who come to me with questions about their own racial confusion, I direct them to this anthology, and Boudakian's essay. On a personal level, it was uncanny to see so many similarities in Boudakian's family history to stories in my own family - even down to exact last names that were altered in order to bend into American assimilationism and white supremacy.

    Another piece that I think back to often is Laila Halaby's poem Browner Shades of White. (If I get around to it, I'll add more w/ quotations)

    Many of the other works in the anthology also had a profound impact on me, especially in regards to how despite our family coming directly from West Asia, many of our family members and community leaders vehemently push away any historical association with Islam, and even refuse the labels Arab and Middle Eastern.

    It's amazing to think that such a work was compiled pre-9/11 and to read it in the 2010s with the same sentiments of unease and socio-cultural and racial liminality while experience such a solid sense of ethnicity and community.

    It was striking to me how many of the authors (similar to me) were given a Western-sounding first name, but still received a traditional middle and last name.

    One last thing to note is that for many potential readers, the mere existence of this text allows us to reject the false White liberal narrative that we've been fed - that in order to be socially and politically progressive, we must assimilate and denounce our backwards and conservative religions and cultures.

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    For further reading on SWANA (Southwest Asian/North African - ie Middle Eastern) racial liminality in North America and social justice, I'd recommend the following works:

    The Limits of Whiteness: Iranian Americans and the Everyday Politics of Race by Neda Maghbouleh.

    Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora by Sarah Galtieri.

    Also check out the Ottoman History Podcast series: Deporting Ottoman Americans (can be found online for free). Joanna Kadi This was an excellent read. Despite the fact that it was written in the early 90s, right after the Gulf War- many of the ideologies and lingering emotions of immigration still occur today. I suspect that in the months after the Gulf War, Arabs were extremely subjugated and disparaged (more so than now)-- in which most of the emotion of the authors stem from. The pendulum of identity struggle between east and west was depicted authentically, so much that it resurfaced my own.
    I appreciated the vast array of kinds of Arabs ranging from Moroccan all the way to Iraqi. Though, I think considering that this took place right after the Gulf War, I would have loved to read more by Kuwaiti/Saudi/Omani/Qatari/Emirati and Yemeni women, whose voices I think are, unfortunately, not as strongly heard in the Arab Feminist literature compared to the Levantine. (However, this could also be due to the fact that the diaspora of the Levantine is drastically more than the Gulf (aside from Iraqis)).
    Overall, the interplay between poetry, prose, memoir and some recipes was refreshing to read and made me homesick (in a beautiful way). It eases me to know that a majority of the internal struggles I face with my cultural identity are experienced by others- and for that, I am thankful.
    Joanna Kadi This book has a special place on my shelf and in my heart, because it was the first Arab Feminist anthology I ever read. There are a range of essays, poems and even images in the book. There are also a range of themes in the book: race, identity, gender, sexuality, class etc... Many of the writers address their feelings of isolation within the US and Canada and trying to find a place within communities of color. Joanna Kadi Excellent, touching , and critical anthology. Will re-read. Joanna Kadi

    Wonderful book for those interested in the stories and history of Arab-American women. Joanna Kadi

    This groundbreaking collection creates a space in which Arab-American and Arab-Canadian feminsts speak out about issues of history, culture and identity. While anti-Arab racism depicts Arab women as veiled, passive victims living in hopelessly sexist communities, Food for our Grandmothers analyzes and challenges these innacurate and distorted views. Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists

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