19 Varieties of Gazelle
Naomi Shihab Nye’s 19 Varieties of Gazelle hits close to home. Although I do not look Muslim and have not dealt with the bashings that Americans have given to those that do, I appreciate the perspective she brings forth of the Arab world. Like her I am American born and do feel the pain of both sides. Nye opens the book with that fateful September 11th day, a tragedy which presented Americans with an excuse to demonize a culture about which they already harbored deep misunderstandings. Her message is delivered with graceful language and metaphors that are visually inflexible. What Nye is trying to accomplish with this book is to represent the Arabic community more accurately than media.
Some of the poems declare what we have all gone numb to in modern media: homes being destroyed, children killed, etc. Yet other poems are merely about everyday events: “Spark” being about her relationship with the gypsies; and “Arabic” about her relationship to the language she never fully learned. In some poems she explains, what I feel are unnecessary details such as “Jerusalem” in which she talks about the bald spot on her father’s head.
Nye’s poem “Lunch in Nablus City Park” begins with words that should not be spoken in a city which has recently gone through war. Although this rings true for any city that has seen such tragedy it is also true for Americans after September 11th. Her poem mentions how the sky above the city does not mirror the war that it has just been through and people talking hush hush about how much more they can take, the opposite of New York City after September 11th. This brings me back to the days after September 11th when our skies did mirror our tragedy, skies filled with dust and debris, people looking more like pale zombies just doing what they must. However both in Nablus City Park and in America when it was said that prayers would help people said “it is not enough, then what?”. In Nablus City Park one day there can...
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