so, ya grl won an Arab American Book Award for my baby, The January Children! A few weeks back, when I was told the news, I felt it important to clarify to the selection committee that I do not identify as Arab, in case this were to affect their decision to give me this award, with the following statement:
I’ve, increasingly over the past few years, had trouble with identifying as Arab—as part of my identity as Sudanese, as Black. I’m still trying to find language to harness the strangeness and the intersection—I’m trying out Arabized African, Arabophone African, to hold the fact that I am an Arabic speaker, with an identity shaped by this Arabic, but a race independent of it, if that makes sense. So many atrocities have been committed in the pursuit of Arab identity and the erasure of identities that do not fit within it—namely, to try and discard Africanness and Blackness. With a lot of trauma as the cost.
I’ve found great community among Arab and Arab-American writers—least of all being the chance to speak the Arabic-English hybrid language that I feel most fluent in. I want to be careful not to diminish the importance that this community has in my life, and to honor it in every way I can. To borrow a phrase from dear Marwa Helal, I find myself in this community but not of it.
So, yeah. COMPLICATED! I have so much love and gratitude for the Arab American National Museum, and all they do, and by their kindness and patience in hearing me out through all this, and allowing for nuance and grayness in this greater conversation. And for being so kind about my lil book :) look mom!