The Discovery of the Self Naomi Nye’s Works
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the self and identity in the works of Naomi Nye, and to examine the popular culture representations of Arabs as terrorist. After the September 11, 2001 attack, more and more disappointment, frustration and curiosity towards Islam and Muslims have aroused amongst Americans. Part of Naomi Nye's political statement lies in her attempts to change the American mainstream perception of Arabs by providing readers with images of Arabs whom she knows and loves, for love lies at the core of her works. She addresses the issue of Arab identity in America and the concomitant connection with terrorism; her works are her representation of the identity crisis of Arab-Americans as an ethnic minority uniting two allegedly hegemonic cultures, Eastern and Western. Nye gives voice to her experience as an Arab-American through poems about heritage and peace that overflow with a humanitarian spirit. Her experience of both cultural difference and different cultures has influenced much of her work. This paper explores the connection between Naomi Nye's life as a writer who lives in the relative safety of the American Southwest and her emotional and familial connection to Palestine, a land torn by war. Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet, songwriter, and novelist. She was born on March 12, 1952, in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Palestinian father and an American mother. During her high school years, she lived in Ramallah in Palestine, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas, where she later received her B.A. in English and world religions from Trinity University. Nye is the author of numerous books of poems, including You and Yours, which received the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, as well as 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, a collection of new and selected poems about the Middle East, Fuel, Red Suitcase, and Hugging the Jukebox .Naomi Nye has received awards from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Carity Randall Prize, the International Poetry Forum, as well as four Pushcart Prizes. She has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow. In 1988 she received The Academy of American Poets' Lavan Award, selected by W. S. Merwin. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas. She was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2010. Nye is also considered one of the leading female poets of the American Southwest. A contributor to Contemporary Poets wrote that she “brings attention to the female as a humorous, wry creature with brisk, hard intelligence and a sense of personal freedom unheard of” in the history of pioneer women. In her works, she explores the theme of similarities and differences between cultures, which would become one of her lifelong areas of focus. For example, in her work” You and Yours,” she continues to explore the Middle East and the possibilities of poetic response. Divided into two sections, the first deals with Nye’s personal experiences as a mother and traveler. The second part examines the Middle East with “indignity and compassion”. Another example of her works, “Blood.” She considers the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. She describes a café in” combat-weary” Beirut, bemoans “a world where no one saves anyone,” and observes “The Gardener” for whom “everything she planted gave up under the ground”. Georgia Review contributor Philip Booth declares that Nye brings “home to readers both how variously and how similarly all people live”. In another work for her, Red Suitcase, Nye continues to explore the effect of on-going violence on everyday life in the Middle East. About her work in general, the poet William Stafford has said, "Her poems combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insight. She is a champion of the literature of encouragement and heart. Reading her work enhances life” (38). A contributor to Contemporary Southern Writers wrote that Nye’s poetry “is...
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