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19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle Eastby Naomi Shihab Nye
Synopses & Reviews
"Tell me how to live so many lives at once ..."
Fowzi, who beats everyone at dominoes; Ibtisam, who wanted to be a doctor; Abu Mahmoud, who knows every eggplant and peach in his West Bank garden; mysterious Uncle Mohammed, who moved to the mountain; a girl in a red sweater dangling a book bag; children in velvet dresses who haunt the candy bowl at the party; Baba Kamalyari, age 71; Mr. Dajani and his swans; Sitti Khadra, who never lost her peace inside.
Maybe they have something to tell us.
Naomi Shihab Nye has been writing about being Arab-American, about Jerusalem, about the West Bank, about family all her life. These new and collected poems of the Middle East — sixty in all — appear together here for the first time.
"Poem after poem will elicit a gasp of surprise, a nod of the head, a pause to reflect. There are no false steps here — only a feeling of sensory overload and a need to take a deep breath and reread or to find someone to share the intensely felt emotion that springs from the lines." Kirkus Reviews
"In her introduction she says that poetry cherishes the small details that big disasters erase, and her simple, concrete words show those details and their connections among soldiers, children, "cousins," everywhere." Booklist
"Though high school students and adults might best appreciate her verse, this is a powerful, thought-provoking volume for all." Children's BookPage
This volume collects for the first time all of Nye's poems about the Middle East, peace, and being an Arab-American in the U.S.
About the Author
Naomi Shihab Nye was named a National Book Award finalist for 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East.The author has been honored with a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, the I.B. Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, and four Pushcart Prizes. Her award-winning picture books for children include Sitti's Secrets,illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, and Come with Me,illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of a novel, Habibi,and the editor of seven critically acclaimed poetry anthologies for young people. She lives with her family in San Antonio, Texas.
In Her Own Words...
Since books have been some of my best friends all my life, being involved in the making of books is the luckiest, happiest thing I can imagine.
The day Virginia Duncan, my editor for many years now, wrote me her first note stands among my most shining days. She had read some of my poems and asked if I had thought of writing children's books. This is what I tell young writers: when you send your poems out into the world, you have no idea what friends they might find. Thank you, Virginia.
As a child I read all the time. I got lost and found in books, and still do. They are my refuge, escape, my endless journey. (At this moment I have fourteen books on my bedside table and forty-eight books stacked on my dresser.)
I was also fascinated by my mother's small red diary that she had kept as a girl. Her penmanship was exquisitely and perfectly slanted, a talent I did not inherit. She rarely wrote more than "Saw movie. Got new dress." I wanted to know more details. What color was the dress?I would beg, during our steamy afternoons as she peeled peaches for cobbler and I lay on the floor thumbing through her early life. "I have no idea!" she'd exclaim. "You think I can remember everything?"
I started keeping my own notebooks because I wanted to remember everything. The quilt, the cherry tree, the creek. The neat whop of a baseball rammed perfectly with a bat. My father's funny Palestinian stories. The feeling of a breeze as my brother and I rode our bicycles down the hill. The blood-red stain of a ripe strawberry on my fingertips; the rich smell of earth at Mueller's Organic Farm a few blocks from our house.
How lucky we were to have a farm in our neighborhood! My first job was picking berries. I thought about poems as I meandered among damp rows. Thirty-four summers later my photographer-husband, Michael, our son, Madison, and I went to pick berries there again-same farm, same fields, same farmers. Suddenly everything in my life connected.
Familiar sights, sounds, smells have always been my necessities. Let someone else think about future goals and professional lives! I will keep track of the bucket and the hoe, billowing leaves, and the clouds drifting in from the horizon.
Whenever someone asks why I write about "ordinary things," I wonder, "Well, what do you have in YOUR life?" Writing saved me when my family moved to Jerusalem, my father's hometown, and during my years at Trinity University in Texas. I have spent twenty-five years working as a visiting writer with students of all ages. I write essays as well as poems, children's books and songs as well as novels and stories for teens. Material is everywhere, free as air.
Now my husband, son, and I live in a house nearly a hundred years old, a block from the little river, in downtown San Antonio. We have a large wrap-around front porch with a swing, good to read in. The most important thing to me about any room is: how are the reading lamps? The new basketball court in our backyard was finished the same week our terrific Spurs team won the 1999 NBA Championship. Sometimes things fit together! Reading and writing help us see all the many ways this is true.
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