Portfolios: Illustration | Typography | Student Work

Daniel Drennan | Portfolio

—: Portfolio of my work as well as a design and illustration teaching portfolio. [link to portfolio]
Web site programmed by yours truly as well. Coming soon: Photography. :—
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Daniel, Ibn Bahija.

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

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.

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Updates/Association of Persons Adopted via Lebanon to the Americas

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.

On that note, I think it is pretty clear that academia in the United States is incredibly ageist, as well as politically extremely conservative, despite wishing to give off the impression of being progressive and open-minded. Another dear friend and former colleague, who has had the job carpet ripped out from under his feet on more than one occasion, lamented that there is not a single academic program in the United States focused on Palestinian Studies. I remarked: “To have the word ‘Palestine’ in one’s resume is the kiss of death”. This reflects in no small way the sub-title of his book: “Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom”. Ironically, my work for the Palestinian cause was equally unwelcome in Lebanon….

Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom

And so, with this in mind, after 40+ job applications over the course of this past year, I’ve been asked to do three interviews. The first one was cancelled rather unceremoniously by the chair of the department, despite the interest of the search committee (see above paragraph); the second one was via Skype and did not advance to a second interview; the third one took place on an amazing campus in a rather bucolic region of the continent and I am currently waiting to hear whether I got the job or not. Inch’allah khayr.

Speaking at the opening of “Up Against the Wall” at Booklyn, Greenpoint.

Beyond that, I’ve been entering my woodblock prints in various shows and exhibitions and have been accepted and/or exhibited at the Printmaking Center of New Jersey, The St. Louis Artists’ Guild, and WCA Philadelphia. (I say “and/or” because I couldn’t afford to frame and ship to one show….) I’ve been working as an archivist for a North Jersey community college. I’ve been collaborating with Interference Archive and Just Seeds Collective. Most excitingly, I was named one of three resident printmakers at the Newark Print Shop, which is pretty much a dream come true. I’ll be working on a series of prints focusing on women in the Southwest Asian context fighting for their children.

Woodblock cut for the Interference Archive/Queens Museum project entitled Commonwealth: Water for All.

On the adoption front, I spoke at the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture in Minneapolis last June, and have been working a bit with the local New Jersey group NJCARE. I’ve started working with a literary agent on a manuscript for a memoir of sorts. At the same time, and this brings me to the subject of this post, I’ve been hearing from many adoptees in North America who have been puzzling out their DNA results, and figuring out next steps. I’m glad to think that my stumbling efforts in this regard might save someone else any unneeded upset or additional trauma.

Design for a brochure encouraging New Jersey adoptees to apply to receive their original birth certificates.

This also got us discussing separately the idea of forming some kind of group or association of adoptees adopted via Lebanon as a way to mutually support each other in our efforts to make sense of what happened to us, as well as the aftermath of that. I have my own ideas on the subject, but as in all my collective work, I insist on collaboration and consensus, and so would like to put some questions out there for adoptees in North or South America:

  1. Would you join such a group?
  2. How official do we wish it to be? Meaning, the European adoptees have created full-on NGOs out of their groups. Is this desirable? Why or why not?
  3. How formal or informal do we wish it to be? On the one end of the spectrum, we might have bylaws and charter, etc. On the other would be something approaching a flash mob…. Thoughts?
  4. How should it be hosted? I don’t use Facebook at all, and want to avoid a site that will be perceived as “dead” if no one is “posting” or “liking”. I’m at the end of my patience for WordPress, and resorted to programming my own web stuff out of frustration. Any ideas?
  5. Because there is so much territory, how do we propose meeting or supporting each other? Regional or state/nation state–based groups? I’m part of a NJ adoptee group, and meeting just in the state becomes a big deal in terms of travel….
  6. What would you find useful in such a group?
  7. How do you envision it working?
  8. Can you think of a better name than mine? (LOL)

Okay, I’ll leave comments open for replies; thank you in advance for your interest!

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Digging at “Ground Zero”.

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.

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On the “familiar” in adoption.

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.

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Advice for adoptive parents.

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.

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Malcolm X Returns to Beirut

This was my second piece for Land of Gazillion Adoptees/Gazillion Voices [link to article], originally published in May of 2015.

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On adoption resistance: bridging false divides.

This was my first piece for Land of Gazillion Adoptees [link to article] originally published in September, 2014.

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إذا رجع ابني | Should my son come back…

[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.

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To my students…

"Daniel, Ibn Bahijeh". Calligraphy by Salwa Faour.

“Daniel, Ibn Bahijeh”. Calligraphy by Salwa Faour.


Last night I had the pleasure and honor of hanging out with some former students of mine. Over the years, whenever someone would ask me why I did not have children, or else would compel me to have children, I would answer: “I have many children; hundreds of them.” I was, of course, referring to my students over the years working at AUB and AUST here in Beirut. Whereas the university structure here demands a certain hierarchy and distance between students and faculty, I have never seen pedagogy as working this way. My office was open to all, and many used it as a workspace, some as a drop-in therapy center, some to take refuge from the drastic “weeding out” process that was designed to make sure that not all succeeded in their studies.

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