>Originally written at the end of December, 2010…
Years ago, I read an article in a Boston newspaper titled Sojourner; The Women’s Forum, dated May 1986. My mother was interviewed about her journey from Safad, Palestine to Boston, Massachusetts, my place of birth and residency at the time of the article. As the interview questions moved into the present, my mother began to express her dream for my sisters and I –
“… My husband is worried that our daughters will lose the knowledge of our culture, and [he] sometimes thinks of going home… he’s worried that his daughters will learn the new culture. It is not wrong, it is not a bad culture, but if they are raised here they will be alone in the future, without their [Palestinian] culture.”
A couple of months ago the article resurfaced during research for my book, and I became rapt in my mother’s characterization of my future state of struggle. For the last twenty-five years, my parents had been planning our return home. I didn’t know where “home” was exactly, but my mother’s hope brought about a catharsis for me. It brought my sense of biculturalism to consciousness again, begging for a form of expression.
I remember lucidly one of my first attempts at publicly exploring my cultural dichotomy. At age fourteen, I returned to the United States from my first three-month trip to Jordan and Syria naïve to the inherently opposing religious and cultural viewpoints between my two identities. I struggled to articulate what was punctuated while abroad – a connection with my place of origin, or as we say in Arabic, “a’adat wa taqaleed”. But friends and their parents insisted I was American and that I “wasn’t any different” then they were. I learned early on that I was easily misunderstood and different. “Home” was still a nebulous concept for me, and I settled with the thought that I embodied “home” because it cannot be found in one national identity or country.
University was my only formal approach to continue my attempts at defining myself. My ambitions were founded in understanding my generation of Palestinians – the post-Nakba global generation – and trying to understand what “home” meant for us. Though I failed at defining myself within a single culture, I began to integrate my different-ness in my academic writing. I gave myself permission to incorporate personal experience in critical analysis of concepts. Professors encouraged this approach, teaching me appropriate scholarly frameworks for weaving personal elements in my research. I slowly found words and ways to teach others about Palestinian identity.
As I attempted assimilation into corporate adulthood, my words and ways that once drove curiosity and ingenuity drown in the incessantly apathetic drag of compliance and profit. While I was still recognized for my cultural heritage, any expression that was contrary to the majority was considered confrontational. This is when my genuine interest in returning to my life’s passion in understanding the Middle East began to resurface. It is through my lifelong ambition to understand Palestinian identity and an immortal curiosity in the concept of “home” that keeps me moving in my life.