Elmaz Abinader and Her Work
To be born a writer and an Arab-American in this lifetime creates an imperative for my work and despite an education that led me away from politically charged writing, my life, my family’s country and the political climate demanded I give voice that nuanced characters and moments that have no complication in the media.
My work has been inspired by the dislocation of my parents from Lebanon to the US, and has radiated outward to dislocations, occupations, and disenfranchisement of other people in the Arab World and Diaspora.
My first book, a memoir, The Children of the Roojme: A Family’s Journey from Lebanon was the story of three generations of Lebanese and their various challenges in finding a home away from their country. Based on diaries, interviews and letters, the book covers two centuries, ending in 1947.
My second publication, a poetry collection, In the Country of My Dreams…. Provides a collection of very specific dislocations—not only the family immigration but my own transition from New York to the Midwest and the shock of the open terrain of Nebraska and the intimate relationships with natural elements.
In addition to these publications, I have written and performed several one-women plays: Country of Origin, Ramadan Moon, 32 Mohammeds, Voices from the Siege and The Torture Quartet. Each uncovers a personal perspective on the lives of Arabs in the middle of political trauma. For instance, 32 Mohammeds is an intersection with the death of Mohammed al-Durra, a boy killed in Palestine before the second Intifada; Ramadan Moon explores the mythology associated with women who are veiled and the different reasons and responses to the veil.
My new poetry collection, This House, My Bones draws parallels between the changes of the earth through natural means to the changes in our bodies during unnatural traumas and how that trauma moves through generations. This collection is being published by Willow Press in October 2014
My current project is a novel, When Silence is Frightening (Working title)
For more information about This House, My Bones
Awards include a PEN Award for In the Country of My Dreams... and a Goldies Award for Literature.
Elmaz has been a Fulbright Scholar to Egypt, has conducted writing workshops in Palestine and has toured several countries with her plays accompanied by the Country of Origin Band, directed by Tony Khalife.
VONA/Voices Writing Workshops
Elmaz is the co-founder and co-director of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation VONA/Voices workshops for writers of color. In its successful 13th year, the workshop gathers writers of color for workshop with well-known writers.
Elmaz teaches at Mills College in Oakland, specializing in Creative Non-fiction/Memoir, Poets of Color and Pedagogy.
Elmaz is also a fitness instructor at the Y in Downtown Oakland, teaching Spinning, Body Sculpt, Pilates, Roller and Core. Elmaz is married to Anthony Byers. Brewster is her #1 hiking bud.