Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I am a Lebanese and Canadian scholar, university professor, artist-painter, peace and feminist activist, and author of several academic and non-fiction publications in English, French and Modern Standard Arabic. I currently live in the United Arab Emirates.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is entitled ‘Reeds from Red Lips’. I founded an online movement for women’s rights in Southwestern Asia (i.e. Middle East) in 2012 that includes the works of more than 150 authors and artists from diverse identities and belongings, living in the region or in diaspora. My first inspiration was this movement per se and its valuable contributions to the advancement of women’s rights and peacebuilding and to highlighting unheard voices. My second inspiration came from questions I had to deal with in the last few years related to issues of gender and arts: What influence does gender have on art production in nowadays Southwestern Asia? Does gender embody everyday life experiences, including the artistic experience? Are gendered spaces of the region Orientalized, demystified, or both? Are bodies, especially women bodies, described asexualized, passive and silent? Do local authors and artists living in diaspora reproduce totalizing or essentialist tendencies? Are power relations between the former colonizers and colonized uncovered? Has the aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring given women a greater voice and are more individuals willing to talk about gender openly? Is the view that assumes that women in Southwestern Asia are oppressed and left out of cultural debates a misconception?
Southwestern Asia has unfortunately been too often stereotyped, viewed as homogeneous and demonized, but the authors and artists featured in this book deconstruct prejudices. They tell stories of the rich pasts and current diversities of this part of the world. They prove somehow that the local belongings, realities, memories and histories are not to be analyzed through a binary perspective – they are far too complex, a mélange of grey zones and multiple shades.
I would like to thank them all: Norah Al Nimer | Katia Aoun Hage | Malak El Gohary | Amal Chehayeb | Lana AlBeik | Dr. Frank Darwiche | Noor Husain | Joelle Sfeir | Maram El Hendy | Dr. Omar Sabbagh | Karma Bou Saab | Farah Nasser | Haeley Ahn | Masooma Rana | Sandra Malki | Maya Khadra | Nour Zahi Al-Hassanieh
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
None that I could think of. I usually write when I am inspired, and with a cup of coffee 🙂
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I have read many authors’ works, especially authors from Southwestern Asia: Amin Maalouf, Gebran Khalil Gebran, Etel Adnan, Rumi, etc.
What are you working on now?
Promoting this book, teaching, and preparing for my next art exhibition.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I use social media platforms and websites such as this one. Colleagues and friends help too.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Passion, inspiration, creativity, courage, patience, humbleness, and an open mind.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls” (Gebran Khalil Gebran)
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it” (Rumi)
What are you reading now?
I am re-reading some of the best women authors’ books in Southwestern Asia and North Africa such as Nawal El Saadawi, Assia Djebar and Fatema Mernissi but also poetry, prose and articles by new authors and students.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Learning from my mistakes, continuing on telling and sharing stories and building bridges.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Not one, but many… Every book I read threw lights on me.