Wednesday was an extraordinary day. The Sharjah International Book Fair is happening currently. In addition to hundreds of publishers and book vendors, this year they have visiting authors from around the world. I was pleased to have the opportunity to hear Samar Dahmash-Jarrah speak. She is a Kuwait born Palestinian and has lived in several of the Middle East countries. She’s an experienced journalist. When 9/11 happened she was living in the States. Even though she is a shy person, she felt it impossible not to speak up and clarify that not all Muslims hate America and not all Muslims are terrorists. This led to her doing a lot of public speaking and media interviews. She then embarked on a wonderful project in which she collected questions that Americans wanted to ask Arabs, then (self-funded) travelled to several Middle East countries and asked these questions of random Arabs she met. These questions and answers are published in her book – Arab Voices Speak to American Hearts (2005). I have yet to read this book, but I will. She is currently teaching an honors course at the University of Southern Florida and is using Facebook to connect her students with Arabs around the world to continue the conversation, if you will. Individuals talking to each other is the best way to take the fear out of the “stranger.” They are no longer strangers.
So, that was a really excellent day, but it got better. There are other authors in town for the book fair – Lisa Dempster (Australia), Zohra Saed & Sahar Muradi (Afghan/Americans), Marsha Qualey (Cairo), and Octavia Nasr (former CNN senior editor of Middle East affairs). So, the Twitter community had a tweetup, of course. Here we are:
(published from my iPad)