Daniel, Ibn Bahija: An Open Letter to Lebanon.

Looking out from my balcony; Ras En-Nebaa.

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

  النسخة العربية: دانيال، ابن بهيجة: رسالة إلى لبنان

We remain the repulsed, splinters, expelled from the body; the corpus surrounds us, englobes us, 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 as an “American”? Had I done so, I know I would have been embraced with open arms, as the colonized 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. Things have changed as they are wont, though it took much of a lifetime: After a decade of search, a DNA test, and reunion with extended family, 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 trusts with such information, my cousin Jamal’s father. And with that the Sisyphean task, twelve long years later, is accomplished.
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Words From the First Intifada (dedicated to Gaza)

This piece was written after the Israeli massacre of Palestinian youth at the Lebanese border with Palestine on the Day of Return, May 15, 2011.

In 1987, after the First Intifada started, I remember sitting in a coffee shop in New York and overhearing words that stung and burned and never left me. I wrote down my thoughts in a sketchbook at the time, but never brought them forward; I forever regret not having said anything at the time. Last Sunday, two-and-a-half decades later, I took part in the debut of the Third Intifada in Maroun Ar-Ras at the border between Lebanon and Palestine. I recall these words now, updated as the occasion warrants.
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“O, Destroyer!”

August is the anniversary of the end of the July 2006 Israeli War on Lebanon (known locally as the “July War”). As American warships arrive off the coast yet again, and Israeli jets buzz in the skies yet again (they never stopped), and the commemoration of the end of the July War this year was tarnished by car bombings in the Southern suburbs and Tripoli (the worst since the civil war “ended”), I recall this poem I wrote seven years ago, in an effort to remember a time that even still, wasn’t as seemingly hopeless as now.
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Solace Crafting: A Fiber Manifesto

I. Revived Fiber Connections: an Introduction


Eight months ago I started stress knitting, or as I prefer to say “solace crafting”. The goal in this renaming, as well as being the basis for the manifesto found here, is to move away from the purely reactive to something much more grounded and proactive. To explain further: Last summer I had the time due to lockdown to focus on some letterpress and linoleum print projects I had queued up for myself. And yet, I found myself blocked. I had images drawn on linoleum; I had other woodblocks pre-incised for reduction passes through the letterpress. But I couldn’t move forward with them. I felt like I was back in “Beirut mode”, where planning ahead meant “through the next few days and nothing beyond that”. But Beirut had community, and without that I found myself hard-pressed to channel similar negative energy in ways that I had managed to in the past.

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On Palestine, apartheid, land, patience, and steadfastness

“No matter how beaten down, she stands back up again”.

I sent a text message to a dear friend I had not seen in a long while, wishing him a happy Eid. He wrote back: “I’m in Gaza.” I knew he was planning this trip, but did not know he had left. He had not seen his family in 10 years; now he had evacuated with them to a relative’s house since every residential tower is (as always) a maximized target for the occupying forces. I said to him: “We are still haunted by the July War of 2006 but we say to ourselves: ‘That was only 33 days.’ Nothing compares to, and we cannot imagine, the months and years and decades of occupation.” He replied: “This is the worst we’ve ever experienced here in Gaza.” Which is basically like saying: “Hell just got 1,000 degrees hotter.”

One is left speechless; and yet such a silence speaks volumes. Nonetheless, for those at a loss as to understanding, or who would seek out information to make up for the black hole that is the de-Voicing of Palestinians in “Western” media, I thought I would assemble some references here that might be useful to balance a playing field that is literally vertical at this point. To continue with my reference above, It has been 15 years since the July War against Lebanon that left 1,500+ civilians dead, including 500+children (I hope to revive the diary this summer to commemorate that particularly lethal aggression against Lebanon). Suffice it to say for now that the lesson I learned at that time is well known to us who experienced it, but is often lost on those forced to assimilate in settler colonial nation-states: Faced with extirpative societies worldwide that do not see us as valid human beings, there is no point arguing along humanitarian lines; to seek inclusion.

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ineradicable voices: narratives toward rerooting: event video

In a previous entry [link ➤] I announced my participation with a collective performance/witnessing of adopted and fostered people in a safe and welcoming environment. It was an amazing experience, and I looked forward to our weekly virtual gatherings as much as I was saddened for it all to end. The video of this particular performance is now online and available for viewing.

To read more about the project and to view the video, please visit the web page of Concordia University’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling via the link below.

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You Are Holding This: Abolition Zine

I am proud and honored to have been included in this first issue of You Are Holding This, a zine whose “only theme is abolition”. From the zine description:

This zine is an invitation for folks directly impacted by systems of family regulation, policing, and surveillance within the child welfare industrial complex to gather our creative expressions and to know one another.

In thinking about abolition we desire to be in relationship with, and draw connection to, other abolitionist movements: prison, police, border abolition, and more. The only theme is abolition.

My contribution was a print from my “Mothers’ Voices” series [link], which was started during an artist’s residency at the Newark Print Shop during the summer and fall of 2017. The print is based on a poem by Mahmoud Darwich entitled: “I am of that place” [link].

The zine is being sold for $5 a copy plus shipping to support printing, as well as future issues. Issue 001 features the expressions of kimura byol-nathalie lemoine, myself, X, BreAnne Carolina Vinchattle Huircán, Leah Nichols, and Benjamin Lundberg Torres Sánchez on a two-sided, full-color broadsheet with cover art by Leah Nichols. A second edition of 200 zines is now available and can be ordered by emailing the zine collective at youareholdingthis@gmail.com.

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Blood’s Call Podcast and Interview

View from Qurnayel, Lebanon

I was recently interviewed by J.R. Rivero Kinsey at the Blood’s Call Podcast [link to web site]. In our conversation I talk about my return to Lebanon, finding family, and being forced to come back to North America. I really enjoyed the conversation, and the web site is very much worth checking out for adoptees as well as anyone seeking familial connections. I encourage you to check it out, as well as the YouTube channel which can also be subscribed to. Thanks for listening.

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On Beirut.

Leveling a building in my old neighborhood of Ras En-Nabaa.

The current pain of Beirut is found in the suddenness of the catastrophe; in that furtive moment, in the split second it took to eviscerate a city. It is not found in the destruction per se, for that has been a decades-long process, a slow-motion leveling, an endless unraveling, bullet by bullet, bulldozer by bulldozer, bomb by bomb: And so the phoenix fouls its own nest. I can still hear the dull sledgehammer delivered thud that announced another building slated for demolition; the handcraft of undoing that pounded the concrete out of the roof, and then the tiles out of the floors, and then the support out of the walls. I can still see the teams of scavengers come to reclaim the pipes, and the iron rods, and the wiring. I still recall the backhoes brought in to clear out the rubble, leaving naught but phantoms and ghosts. I remember the statistic that Solidère’s “reconstructing” bulldozers willfully damaged more buildings than the entirety of the Civil War. Meanwhile, these mechanical weapons of mass destruction heaved up uncaringly the unwanted past remembrances found in shards of pottery that perplexed passersby would rescue from a city endlessly committing a slow and silent suicide.

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Von Coates: Rest in Peace.

This will be short as I won’t pretend that I knew Von Coates other than through years of reading her blog as well as some email correspondence. Nonetheless, I was very saddened to hear of her passing recently. Quoting her family:

As a social worker and online advocate of hundreds of adopted persons, Liz was a huge-hearted woman, passionate about the rights of others. Her death on 17/05/2020 has been devastating to family, friends and the online community.

When I first started this blog, Von was one of the few who would repost my missives on her blog [link: The Life of Von], opening up connections between domestic and transnational adoption, but also connecting threads of dispossession, displacement, and disinheritance that are not limited to continents or nation-states.

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بِلَال‎ (Bilal)

Bilal is the name of a song just released by the Lebanese rap artist El Rass [Twitter: @El_Rass]. I know of El Rass’s music through my cousin Jamal [Imdb: Jamal Awar]. More often than not during drives up to Qurnayel from Beirut, El Rass would be playing on the car stereo system. Some of the things I appreciate most about him as a musician (though my Arabic is barely up to the challenge) is first his inquisitive and critical spirituality, and then also his mixing of Arabic idioms, from classical to street dialect. This gives an oratory nuance and resonance to his words and music that is quite compelling.

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Adoption Initiative statement on #BlackLivesMatter

This statement was written on behalf of The Adoption Initiative [Twitter: @AdoptionConf], the conferences of which I have had the pleasure of working on and presenting at for eight years now. The Initiative’s 20th anniversary conference was planned for this year; it has been postponed for obvious reasons. So many of the issues tied to the conference overlap with current attacks on Othered communities which often source children for adoption or find their children removed into foster care. This response on behalf of the conference addresses that, in light of current #BlackLivesMatter protests.

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Adoptive Parents! Not Your Story to Tell.

[Update: Some fellow adoptees and myself are working on a statement concerning this book and its promotion; stay tuned!]

Are you tired of adopters telling our stories? So am I. I received word of a Zoom event taking place via email due to a conference mailing list I still belong to. It is sponsored by @lsupress (Louisiana State University Press) and the Pittsburgh Consortium for Adoption Studies, and will be moderated by Prof. Ruth Milkman of CUNY Graduate Center. It is a discussion among adoptive parents an adoptive parent and a parent via surrogacy examining the book Creole Son, written by E Kay Trimberger. Here is my response:

I’ve gotten used to the negative aspects of living as an adoptee in our current pro-adoption world, but I feel compelled to inform you that this email hits like a ton of bricks.

The web site ekaytrimberger.com is hugely problematic on about 100 levels. I don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps with the title of her book? The use of the term “creole”—with obvious missionary, colonial, and imperial connotations—is misguided at best, distressingly offensive at worst.

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