Looking out from my balcony; Ras En-Nebaa. (Photo by Mayda Freije Makdessi)
Seest thou one who denies the Reckoning? Then such is he who harshly repulses the orphan…. —The Small Kindnesses, 107:1–3
We are as splinters, expelled from the body. The corpus surrounds us, englobes us, and drives us out; it then returns to a state of “as if” we had never existed. Should we attempt return, we do not notice that the immune response starts yet again. Only at this point we are incapable of understanding its reasonings and explanations. Ô Lebanon! Shall I be sorry that I wished not to return to you as an “American”? Had I done so, I know I would have been embraced with open arms, as the colonized always greet their oppressors. There is no comfort here. No, I sought something more from you: an origin, a sense of source, an acknowledgement of belonging, a claim to place—a wish shared by many also discounted as not being “of” this place. None of which you deemed worthy of offering. In this regard, I was naive to an extreme, no doubt. But things have changed. Following my latest visit to what I understand now is a neighboring familial village, my story was revealed to me by my cousin Jamal. Two weeks ago we met with the father of my top DNA match, as well as a family friend who saw my BBC interview years ago. Like a frozen river come springtime, a great unblocking took place as word got round, as the who and the what and the why made the rounds. And an elderly man plagued by his memories of a child absconded with half a century ago came forward, and revealed a secret to the only man he says he trusts with such information, Jamal’s father. And with that the Sisyphean task, twelve long years later, is accomplished.
As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve started an artist’s residency at the Newark Print Shop. In order to fund this opportunity, I am “pre-selling” expected output from the residency at Kickstarter [link to Kickstarter page], as described below. Support of any kind (including just helping get the word out) is greatly appreciated!
Strolling around during a break in the interview process in early April
After detailing the grueling application schedule for universities in my last post, I’m happy to report that I have accepted the position of Assistant Professor of Illustration in the Faculty of Visual Art + Material Practice at Emily Carr University, Vancouver, Canada. It’s a bit bittersweet, after leaving Beirut, and now New Jersey just as I was re-establishing myself, but I’m looking forward to the adventure of a new place and most of all to be teaching once again.
An extremely kind message from a fellow adoptee the other day reminded me that I have not posted here since returning to New Jersey last June. “Re-entry” has been a bit more difficult than I imagined, and so here, almost a year later, I’m still living in my sister’s house, trying to get regrounded again, and this has taken up most of my energy this past almost-year.
Much of that time has been spent applying for university teaching positions. When I started complaining about this to a dear friend and former colleague who has both Columbia and Brown under her teaching belt, she replied: “I applied to 72 universities before finding my current job”. I promised her I’d wait until application #73 before getting depressed about my own situation, but my patience ran out long before that.
I was on my way to work in New York City on the morning of September 11, 2001. I am grateful to the web site “The Sonic Memorial Project” for its archives on Radio Row, and would be interested in hearing from those of this community. Special thanks as well to CounterPunch who published this prose poem on their web site at the tenth anniversary of that date.
Over at Transracial Eyes [link], I posted a question concerning the way in which the world looks at us as adoptees, and how this radically changes with time. The basic point was that when we are children, and we are seen with an adult who is not of the same ethnicity or of similar physical resemblance, the mental calculation is pretty straightforward: “Adopted”. When we are older, however, this same calculation does not maintain, and other answers to the equation come to the fore, varying depending on the family member: “partner”, “caregiver”, “adulterer”, “kidnapper”. Many of these terms reflect the same racist and stereotypical categories applied to the minority populations in the country that we are perceived as being of.
I am often asked my advice concerning adoption actions in progress, and I am always taken aback at such requests and the burden they place on adoptees. They demand of us a stamp of approval that I, for one, refuse to give for reasons well-explained here at this blog. I am publishing my most recent reply in the hopes of spelling out the equivalent burden that adoptive parents need take on; a true “home test”, and a call to action.
It’s always hard for me to answer emails like yours, so excuse the delay. If you are familiar with my writing then you know that I don’t mince words, so please excuse my bluntness. First, the assumption that anything you’ve been told is the truth or that any information that you might have is valid should be discarded. Second, there is no such thing as “legal adoption” in Lebanon, so know that your “ordeal” mostly concerns local “officials” putting a “legal” veneer on what can only be described as child trafficking. I commend you for attempting to track down the hospital of birth and the mother of this child, but there is a bigger picture to examine and take into consideration.
This was my first piece for Land of Gazillion Adoptees [link to article] originally published in September, 2014.
[These are the words of the mother of one of the disappeared during the Lebanese civil war. Source unknown; contributed by Zeina Allouche. Further coming full circle: Above the communal crypt of my mother’s final resting place was a mirror engraved with the hadith: “Paradise lies at the feet of mothers.”]
إذا رجع ابني خليه يزورني ويدق عقبري ٣ مرات
هيك بركي هونيك برتاح وصية… • أم مخطوف خلال الحرب اللبنانية
Should my son come back let him knock on my grave 3 times;
in this way maybe I will find peace.