Hijab-Wearing Writers and Their Contributions to Literature and Poetry
Hijab-wearing writers have contributed a lot to literature and poetry throughout the years. Whether it is a story based on the lives of women or a poem that tells the stories of men, these women have been very successful in their writing careers. However, there are some important aspects that you should keep in mind when reading their works.
1. Mohja Kahf
Hijab-wearing writers have been a source of inspiration to many Muslim American women. These authors write about their experiences as immigrants and their contributions to literature and poetry. However, these writers are not always representative of the entire immigrant experience. There are some who, like Mohja Kahf, are writing about the complex relationship between Muslim Americans and the United States.
Kahf's poems examine the complex relationships between the religious and the socio-economic, focusing on gender equality across cultures. She emphasizes cross-cutting parallels, as well as the role of sexism in American society.
In her poetry, Kahf draws on familiar biblical figures and Arab and Islamic cultural references. She stresses gender equality and sexism, while also highlighting the perils of war and global capitalism. As a Muslim American writer, she is challenging the traditional trajectory of immigrant writing.
Kahf's poetry is written in the ruins of Beirut. She uses these ruins to draw connections between disparate worlds. By doing so, she makes the difference between an ethical encounter and one that exploits the other.
Although the poems are written from a Middle Eastern context, they incorporate mainstream American cultural references. For example, the speaker of a poem compares two human encounters, one that includes a young Arab woman and an older white man, and the other that involves an American woman and a black man. Both of these encounters expose the speaker's illusions of freedom and control.
Kahf's poems explore how the muhajjaba's presence in America infuses social spaces with Islamic rituals and cultural motifs. Yet, she also notes that Americans express a range of affective reactions to this presence.
The novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, written by Kahf, follows the journey of Khadra Shamy, a second-generation Muslim American, through the complexities of her own culture. Like her poetry, it challenges the patriarchal structure of the Muslim world.
2. Maryam Azam
In an era where Islamophobia is prevalent, some writers have questioned whether a hijab-wearing woman's ability to make her mark on the American scene is worthy of a mention. However, a couple of Arab-American poets have tackled the subject in the context of the American experience.
First, author Kathy Kahf pens poems that incorporate Middle Eastern and American cultural references. Secondly, her poetry yokes together disparate worlds to explore racialization and religion.
In A Sky Beyond the Storm, Kahf evokes the Lebanese Civil War. In a series of poems, she draws inspiration from the lives of two suffering survivors. Her speaker, a Muslim American, asserts her identity as a person of color and resists being labeled a fleeing victim.
Similarly, in Hagar Poems, Kahf re-examines Malak's premise: that a black girl wearing a hijab would be a big deal. She also takes a closer look at the impact of Islamic rituals on the everyday.
Finally, in Saints and Misfits, she explores the challenges of an Arab Indian-American teenager. Her daughter Naila is forced into marriage by her conservative parents.
Unlike Kahf's more narrative poetry, A Sky Beyond the Storm is not a novel. Instead, it is a creative nonfiction essay about the birth of her son. The book was a finalist for the 2004 Paterson Poetry Prize. It won an honorable mention in the Arab-American National Museum Book Awards.
Kahf's work is not without its pitfalls, however. For instance, she has received death threats. During a reading in San Francisco, several young women said they wished they had her book when they were growing up.
Nevertheless, Kahf's poems are worth a read. They are not only a testament to the power of literature to explore complicated issues, they also demonstrate how inevitable thematic cross-fertilization is.
3. Faiqa Mansab
In the era of racialized violence and heightened discrimination against Arab and Muslim Americans in the United States, writers have emerged that are creating new diction to represent the lived experiences of this community. These writers are using poetry and prose to highlight the struggles of these communities in their quest for self-affirmation and cultural affirmation.
Kathy Kahf is one of these writers. Her work is centered on Muslim American experiences. She has been awarded a Pushcart Prize and a Paterson Poetry Prize. Her first book of poetry, Hagar Poems, was an honorable mention in the 2017 Arab American National Museum Book Awards.
Kahf's poems address the ways in which a muhajjaba's physical presence and lifestyle reflects back on her as a person of color. They also reflect on the way that Americans respond to the muhajjaba in the midst of a racialized society.
The muhajjaba is often seen as a pawn of an Arab male, a victim of oppression, and a fleeing victim of a "backward fundamentalist" culture. But Kahf's speakers challenge this narrative. Rather than being apologetic or acquiescing, the speaker lashes out at her opponent's loaded questions and unjustified suspicions.
Kahf's poems are an example of the inevitable thematic cross-fertilization of Arab, Islamic, and American themes. Through these encounters, she challenges the mythology of exclusively white, Christian America and the way Muslims and Arabs are lumped into a single country.
During the post-World War II period, Arab-American writers drew on the tradition of free verse and the lyric poem to assert their identities. Many of these writers drew on their experiences in Arab countries to explore the political, philosophical, and cultural boundaries of their adopted U.S. homeland.
4. Mohja Azdi
Many contemporary Muslim-American writers have criticized and explored diasporan sensibilities and exclusionary forces. They also have articulated a search for home in the U.S., beyond the violence of the Middle East. Here are some of these writers' contributions to literature and poetry.
Kahf's poems, as an example, explore the impact of racialization in religion. She writes about the experience of a muhajjaba--a Muslim woman--during random encounters with Americans. Her poems incorporate Arab and Islamic cultural references, as well as mainstream American cultural references.
The speaker of her poem confronts an adversary who sees her as a fleeing victim. But she resists, assuring him she is a citizen of the United States. During their encounter, Kahf's speaker exposes the naivety and ignorance of her opponent.
Khadra Shamy, the protagonist of Kahf's novel, is a teenaged draft devout who later becomes a head scarf-wearing adult. In her novel, she must negotiate the same challenges that are presented in her poems.
Despite her success as a writer, Kahf has faced death threats. In addition, her poetry is often viewed as a form of racialization. As a young woman, she had to cover her hair for public appearances.
The poem "Sand Nigger" is a critique of racial categories. It invokes the culture and identity of the Lebanese. When a blue-haired boy shames a Muslim student in the classroom, the speaker of the poem exposes the hypocritical attitude.
Kahf's poetry reflects her understanding of the importance of recognizing class issues in discussing gender equality. She argues that it is unproductive to single out Arab or Islamic societies for patriarchal practices. Rather, if the underlying factors of economic insecurity, social inequality, and sexism are not addressed, it is impossible to discuss gender equality.
A number of poets have used the hijab as a platform for self-expression. These are writers like author Kathy Kahf. Her poems incorporate Middle Eastern and American literary and pop cultural references.
For example, in a poem about a woman's search for her roots, Kahf describes her attempts to reclaim her ethnic heritage. She also mentions the importance of a hijab-like disguise.
In another poem, a Muslim girl experiences a life-altering moment. In the course of this experience, she is exposed to a number of socially exclusionary practices. This includes the fear of passing as white. However, the real challenge is navigating the hybridized nature of her identity.
The poem is not only a demonstration of the racialization of religion and the art of concealing it, but it also demonstrates the effectiveness of writing in English with an Arabic accent.
Other poems by Kahf use the hijab as a metaphor for navigating the challenges of being an immigrant. It also addresses class issues.
There is no one right way to wear a hijab, but some people choose to highlight their Islamic heritage with a head scarf. Others resent the sight of a muhajjaba.
Author Kathy Kahf uses her hijab to make a case for a gendered America. In A Reaper at the Gates, she illustrates how students are taught to disdain ethnic Others by demonstrating microaggressions.
Moreover, her book is a demonstration of a novel approach to tackling the complexities of immigrant identity. Khadra Shamy, a Muslim student, is forced to grapple with a number of identity-related challenges. As a result, she is transformed from a devout teen into a young adult who wears a head scarf.