Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists
Edited by Joanna Kadi South End Press, $16
In a deeply personal compilation of essays and poetry, these (primarily) American and Canadian authors recount stories of lifetimes in exile and address their complex presence in the West. Most are children or grandchildren of immigrants from throughout the Middle East. Growing up in North America, each experiences the prickly racism of a society that often sees only black and white. More than one author recalls attending consciousness- raising seminars that broke down into two groups of women, white and of color, forcing them to choose between two ill-fitting identities. Many of the authors who share distinctly Arab surnames or appearance write of their humiliation in airports as they are detained, their baggage and persons searched as security measures, while other, whiter, passengers continue on unimpeded.
For each of these women, the food of Arab countries provides a strong connection to their ancestry, and the recipes included speak to this tie. But while these essays are drawn together by this fond connection to the past, many are also infused with a deep anger. A majority of these women are political activists fighting on several fronts: for the liberation of Palestine, for fair representation of Arab women in Western society, against the Gulf War, toward an embracing of their own experiences as they straddle two worlds. (Some of these writings are indeed militant in their objections to Zionism and Israel; supporters of peace between Jews and Arabs may find these pieces especially difficult to swallow.) Arab women have been largely absent in the discourse of Western race politics. These writings attempt to claim a voice both within that discussion and outside it—creating a unique position for Arab women in North America.