Arts > Literature > September 11 Literary Reactions

Image by Michael Foran

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Arab Americans and Muslim-Americans became increasingly singled out and associated with the perpetrators behind the tragedy. Fighting against this stereotype, Arab American writers after 9/11 have used their work to challenge and help heal the objectification and de-humanization of their  community that has taken place since then. Arab Americans want to be recognized as American citizens and dispel the false claims that their Arab identity is somehow inherently at odds with their “American-ness.”

In response to news stories highlighting acts of violence and incidences of discrimination against Arab and Muslim Americans which stemmed from post-9/11 anxiety, novelists, poets, and other Arab American writers, such as Mohja Kahf and Suheir Hammad, have challenged the media constructed association of Arab Americans with extremism, violence and terrorism.

 

Mohja Kahf: “The Spiced Chicken Queen of Mickaweaquah, Iowa,” from Dinarzad’s Children: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Fiction (Kaldas, Matttawa, 2004)



In this short story, Kahf describes the environment in which Arab Americans find themselves in the aftermath of September 11th. The main character, Mzayyan, struggles with an abusive husband and an American legal system unwilling or unable to assist her. Yet, after the attacks on 9/11, Mzayyan is able to manipulate the fear and hatred directed towards Arab American men to have her husband deported. This interesting story explores the realities of the post-9/11 world and the unsuspected consequences it had for some Arabs and Muslims.

 

 

Suheir Hammad: Spoken Word Poetry

While Mohja Kahf explores the perceptions and stereotypes of Arab Americans through her characters, Suheir Hammad expresses her opinions through spoken word poetry. Born in Jordan to refugee parents fleeing the conflict in Palestine, Hammad’s family moved to Brooklyn, New York, when she was still quite young. Her childhood in Brooklyn heavily influenced her style of writing, but she draws heavily as well on her parents’ experiences of life in Palestine to form the subject matter of her work. With these dual inspirations, Hammad produces powerful poems addressing the hybrid identity of Arab Americans, particularly in post-9/11 America, and the difficulties that accompany this identity.

 

 

Suheir Hammad reading on Def Poetry

(Mature language)

First Writing Since

 

Mike Check