Reeds from Red Lips Book – Meet our Authors!

The Reeds from Red Lips book includes diverse stories from Southwestern Asia (Middle East) on arts and gender – stories told through poetry and prose in English, French, Modern Standard Arabic and Lebanese, and through a selection of conceptual photography artworks, digital visuals, cartoons and paintings.
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Featured Authors and Artists: Dr. Pamela Chrabieh | Norah Al Nimer | Katia Aoun Hage | Malak El Gohary | Amal Chehayeb | Lana AlBeik | Dr. Frank Darwiche | Noor Husain | Joelle Sfeir | Maram El Hendy | Dr. Omar Sabbagh | Karma Bou Saab | Farah Nasser | Haeley Ahn | Masooma Rana | Sandra Malki | Maya Khadra | Nour Zahi Al-Hassanieh
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“The Reeds from Red Lips book authors and artists tell stories of the rich pasts and current diversities of Southwestern Asia. They also unveil their innermost selves.  Through their texts and images, they carry somehow diverse refrains of the cities and lands they come from and/or inhabit” (Dr. Pamela Chrabieh, Foreword).

Dr. Pamela Chrabieh

I was born and raised in war-torn Lebanon. My artistic journey started there in the 1990s, during which I studied and practiced Plastic Arts/ Sacred Arts and the restoration of icons. I was looking to formulate a content and express it in the academic, civil society and artistic spheres, mainly on war memory, inter-human dialogue and peace. Restoring a physical icon of the 16th c. C.E. was equivalent to restoring my damaged inner-self and contributing to change within my society. I never stopped believing in the importance of healing individual and collective wounds caused by physical and psychological wars.

This belief still incarnates in my paintings, whether I deal with the issue of women’s rights or intercultural/interreligious dialogue. Furthermore, my personal quest for catharsis as a war survivor and my belief in both the inevitability of the transmission of war memories in most private and public contexts and the urgency of a collective healing process that would include all social strata made me acknowledge the input of downplayed narratives and silenced voices in the construction of an inclusive, pluralistic and convivial national memory, history and identity in Lebanon.
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Pamela Chrabieh is Lebanese and Canadian. She holds a Ph.D. in Sciences of Religions from the Université de Montréal (Québec- Canada) and is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the American University in Dubai (AUD- United Arab Emirates). Author of many books including Icônes du Liban (Carte Blanche – Canada, 2004), A la rencontre de l’Islam (Médiaspaul – Canada, 2006), Voix-es de paix au Liban (Dar el Machreq – Lebanon, 2008) and Womanhood in Western Asia (in Arabic, Dar el Machreq – 2013), she is the founder of the Red Lips High Heels’ movement and online platforms.

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Haeley Ahn

What are your primary sources of inspiration?

I have always loved words — I tend to be inspired more by not events themselves, but what others make of those events. I collect quotes from novels and poetry, and these days I’ve begun to explore Korean writing as well. My favourite quote as of now is:
“There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion.” Edgar Allen Poe, “The Masque of the Red Death”
A friend I met at a summer program two years ago also introduced me to the beauty of the spoken word, and I love to surf around YouTube for these poets also.
Whenever I read or hear anything that resonates with me, I record them in my A4 diary, so that I can always look back and feel the same emotions a week, month, or year later. It’s strange and exhilarating that a sequence of vowels and consonants, stutters and sighs, pauses and slurs, is enough to bring back so many memories. It is because of this personal significance of record-keeping, that I decided to handwrite my piece for this book — just like I would have written it in my diary.

How has your personal background influenced your art?

I’ve had the privilege of receiving an international education in various areas of the world, surrounded by inspiring peers and teachers who have taught me the value of social tolerance and equality. In this way I am a typical 21st century “third-culture kid,” who grew up in a liberal atmosphere that sharply contrasts the beliefs that pervaded my parents’ generation. I hearken to the ideals that I have developed from meeting the many different people that inhabit this world.
But at the same time, I attended middle school in Korea, which were very formative years; I identify myself solely with the Korean heritage, and naturally I am very invested in the social movements of my home country. It is a little painful to acknowledge that Korea is far too socially conservative in general to my liking as of now. But it is impossible for me to produce any form of expression without considering Korea.

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Amal Chehayeb

What are your primary sources of inspiration?

I find inspiration in life; life events such as birth, death, love, heartbreak, rain, sunshine, suffering or jubilation… At times the feelings are too strong to express in prose, and my words come out in poetry, at other times the comedian in me leans toward telling life’s humorous trials in stories.
As a stage performer, I found myself able to embody a different persona. I slipped on this role like a dress and enjoyed being on stage; a great feat as I used to have stage fright.

Why are you particularly drawn to the media (poetry, visual art, etc.) you create?

I have been writing since the age of 12. I began keeping personal journals at an early age, and that evolved into writing short stories based on a song I might have heard or made up tales I used to tell my daughter when she was a toddler. Growing up, my family would ask me to sing to them. I used to get so nervous when they asked me to perform for company. Singing to myself brought me joy. I would become lost in my own little world where all that mattered was the tune, and life’s woes were left behind.

How has your personal background influenced your art?

My writing changes with my moods. However most of the topics have come from my everyday life. My parents always encouraged me to write, to sing and later to perform. Their support gave me courage to publish some of my work. As I grow older, I find that much of life is actually quite funny and I have noticed that although I am touched by the suffering of others, I found a light hearted side of me that I enjoy expressing.
I have however been unable to sing for the past 5 years. Too much talking in class while teaching elementary school, and raising my voice to be heard over the music while teaching dance, created havoc on my vocal chords. To my chagrin I can no longer hold a note properly, nor do I have the stamina to carry a musical phrase. At first this distressed me to no end, but I have found solace in reliving the memories of being able to belt out tunes and to perform on stage.

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Dr. Frank Darwiche

Where things stand is always the question: the one guiding question that goes back to the origin, for asking about things as they are is asking about what anything is in itself.
That has been my guide ever since a semblance of consciousness came about in/as myself.
“Man is question”, said R. Coste somewhere, and to that truth I have been true all my life, with ups and downs, deceptions, revelations, joy, sorrow, on and on, over the path of philosophy.
Along this path, thought has always sought its more intimate avenues for me, its closeness to what is innermost, and among such avenues there has been the poetic, not for its aesthetic “value”, not for its metre, but for its capacity at letting things be said as they are, along with an unfurling of language’s unsuspected power, its sheltering and opening of the essence of things, and thus of myself as here and now and away, as a man, as a woman, as what is for us to be.
From France to England to the USA, to Lebanon, it’s always been a journey into what it is to slide and hover above troubled and quiet waters, it’s always been a question of what time has allotted and let be, it’s always been a reconsideration of what ought to be thought and given forth.
Every word of poetry I’ve written is weighed, heavily considered and reconsidered, and yet, almost surprisingly, it comes from an intuition, an immediacy in contact with the world and its happenings. Each word has been the site of a hesitation and will hopefully continue to be.

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Frank Darwiche holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the Université de Bourgogne (Dijon-France) and is Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Balamand University – Lebanon. He is the author of many publications such as: ”… vers “le dieu” : le soufisme d’Ibn ‘Arabi et la pensée de Heidegger (…toward “the god”: Ibn ‘Arabi’s Sufism and Heidegger’s Thought”, in Hawliyat, 15/2014; “La tolérance, est-elle garante de la paix (Can tolerance Guarantee Peace?)”, in Annales de philosophie et des sciences humaines : solidarité et paix, 31/2014, p. 65 to p. 74; Heidegger : le divin et le Quadriparti (Heidegger: the Divine and the Fourfold), Ovadia Press, Nice, France, May, 2013; “La tolérance : analyse et limites (Tolerance: analysis and limits)”, in Le Laboratoire, 2/2012; “La distance dans l’art contemporain (Distance in Contemporary Art)”, in Le Laboratoire, 1/2011, p. 38 to p. 42; “Le divin (Göttliche) au cœur du Quadriparti (Geviert) (The Divine at the heart of the Fourfold)”, in La revue philosophique de la France et de l’étranger, 3/2009, p. 309 to p. 332; “Hegel et Heidegger : vers le dieu (Hegel and Heidegger: Towards the god)”, in Klèsis, 15/2010, p. 69 to p. 88; “Introduction à une étude originelle de l’éphémère (Introduction to an Original Study of the Ephemeral)”, in Sciences humaines combinées, October 2007; “Lebanon”, in Countries and Their Culture, New York, MacMillan, Yale, 2001. Soon to be published: Le Liban ou l’irréductible distance (Lebanon or the Insuperable Distance), Vermifuge, France; “Le Summum ens et la différence : Heidegger et Saint Thomas d’Aquin (The summum ens and difference : Heidegger and St Thomas Aquinas)”, USEK Press, Lebanon.

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Joelle Sfeir

What are your primary sources of inspiration?

I write on subjects that matter to me – social issues, and mainly women’s rights. When I write, it is usually because a specific matter has been eating up at me for a while, turning and turning in my head, almost like an obsession. It makes me see all things related, and the links to what is troubling me are highlighted in my mind. I see the connections like lines of light; connections and lines that create a network in social issues that mean a lot to me. I reflect for a while and feel the immense urge to express these thoughts. I use words to help me ascend from an emotional state to a more rational one, hoping that my thoughts will eventually bend the course of things to a better one (of course, this will only be done when all think alike, which is not yet likely).

Why are you particularly drawn to the media (poetry, visual art, etc.) you create?

I love words. I love to play with them, to use them and abuse them. I love how one word can mean so many different things, how i always have to make sure the listener/reader is getting what I mean by a certain word. I love to learn and know the different meanings the same word can have in different settings and/or cultures.
When I need to express something, words are “my thoughts and emotions in action”.

How has your personal background influenced your art?

As an Arab woman, I live in a world where sexism, machismo and patriarchy are omnipresent. Having been brought up in a more “open minded” family and having lived 10 years in Canada, I have learned about a totally different culture, and a different “public discourse” regarding women’s rights. Like many other women, I have always been confronted to different sets of realities, and double standards. With this in mind, all that I see is always, one way or another, linked to the double standards issue that I see reflected in so many social justice issues – racism, homophobia, gender, etc.

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 Katia Aoun Hage
Among half torn papers with doodling, toys and Xbox sounds, endless preparations of meals and the constant pull to make connections with everything and everyone around her, Katia Hage redefines the confines of society with colored brush strokes of depth of perception and divine presence. Poetry, calligraphy, painting, music, dance, dreams become the outlet of an intuition belonging to generations of past and present. Her own personal journey in life, from the mountains of Cameroun, to the shores of Lebanon to the valleys of California, leads her back home, a place where the heart, the body and the mind become aware of each other and explode with an energy of recognition and love into words and sounds.
One might recount the acts of going to school, getting a musicology degree and a master’s degree in music education, performing in local venues in theater and coffee houses, or the events of marriage and immigration, of war and becoming a refugee, of not having the privilege to be born in one’s own country, but what moves Katia as a human artist are the connections that occur at every turn of her life. Her ability to step out of her comfort zone, to open wide her heart and mind to what is offered, takes her on a voyage of extreme delight bathed under the sun to the cliffs of illusion and depression in a dark night. This is what allows her to listen and hear and write the many stories living in her own and other people’s bodies, people who become beloved, unique and worthy of every experience and joy.
As she continues to write and perform with local artists, Katia Hage moves through her internal world to build bridges of understanding and love, by touching the places of emotions and witnessing the dignity of every life
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Maya Khadra

Maya Khadra, née au Liban en 1990, est activiste pour la cause de la citoyenneté dans le monde arabe à travers l’organisme régional CAFCAW où elle occupe le poste de coordinatrice de projets et membre exécutif, journaliste et critique littéraire, engagée pour la cause féminine surtout au Moyen Orient et est l’auteur de deux ouvrages littéraires: “Moi en Sépia” et “Derniers jours d’une nymphomane”, ainsi que d’une publication académique dans l’ouvrage collectif “Shifting Identities in the Arab World”. En 2013, elle obtient le 1er Prix du journalisme francophone illustré en zones de conflits. Installée depuis un an à Paris, elle est en cours de préparation de son doctorat en littérature francophone du Proche Orient (Liban, Palestine et Syrie).

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Nour Zahi Al-Hassanieh

Nour Al-Hassanieh is a Lebanese blogger & a Master’s student in Arabic Literature. She holds a BA degree in business administration & economics (emphasis banking & finance) from Notre Dame University-Louaize since 2013 & is currently working as an accountant in a pharmaceutical company. Nour also pursued a BA degree in Arabic language & literature at Lebanese University & graduated in 2016.
She has a certificate of participation in Journalism course from Annahar academy & a certificate of training on the strategic use of social media from Naharashabab NGO & USAID. This background along with the desire to read books & write articles & poems helped her in starting her blog “nourzahi.wordpress.com” in November 2012.
Very simple things may inspire Nour to write: heavy rains, sunny winter mornings, a talk with a stranger, a great book, music, news, harassments that people face. She is drawn to writing since she believes in the power of words in expressing thoughts & feelings, for that reason she writes about various social subjects. Nour can be contacted at [email protected]

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Dr. Omar Sabbagh

Omar Sabbagh is a widely published poet and critic. Two of his extant collections are: My Only Ever Oedipal Complaint and The Square Root of Beirut (Cinnamon Press, 2010/12); To The Middle of Love, his fourth collection, is forthcoming with Cinnamon Press in January 2017. His Beirut novella, Via Negativa: A Parable of Exile was published by Liquorice Fish Books in March 2016. A Dubai sequel to the latter, From Bourbon to Scotch, is forthcoming in 2017 with Eyewear. He has published or will have published scholarly essays on George Eliot, Ford Madox Ford, G.K. Chesterton, Robert Browning, Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell, Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, Basil Bunting, Lytton Strachey, Hilaire Belloc, and others; as well as on many contemporary poets. His latest book is a collection of critical essays on literature, Disciplined Subjects and Better Selves (Anaphora, September 2016). He now teaches at the American University in Dubai (AUD).

The source of most of his creative work, and indeed much of his critical work – viewed as just as creative – is himself. As a lyric poet in the main, he tends to find, via his poetry, objective correlates of his state of mind and feeling; as a prose writer, in fiction and/or nonfiction, he tends to use himself as a sounding board for insight. In other words writing the ‘other,’ for him, is a reflection of self-understanding, often enough. Having a very British mind – his heart and soul remain Lebanese and Arab. And this means that while the English language is felt by him as a part of his body, forcing him and compelling him to deploy it, to body it forth – none the less, the hope remains that unlike many contemporary British writers, he writes with a burly quotient of soulfulness. Words, his medium, are extensions of his self and, true narcissist that he is, also the means to continuously and unendingly ‘prove’ that he exists.

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Sandra Malki

What are your primary sources of inspiration?

Pain has always been my source of inspiration. I cannot even write a normal sentence when I am happy, but when I am angry, sad or completely crushed then I transform to an author and a poet. Don’t ask me why. I have had this “gift” since I was a little girl. I wrote my first poem at the age of seven and all teachers I’ve had have been amazed by how I can completely fail at assignments at school that don’t mean anything to me but master others that touch a nerve in me or makes my heart skip a beat. I have no idea how to get rid of this “gift” because I never had a reason. Happiness is a rare, almost alien subject to me, so I will continue to write as long as it is absent in my life. The day I find happiness is the day I will stop writing. Not because I want to, but I have no idea of what to write when happy.

Why are you particularly drawn to the media (poetry, visual art, etc.) you create?

I am not drawn to the particular subject I write about, it is drawn to me. It has always existed in my life. I wish it wasn’t the case. I wish one day I will get rid of the source of all my poems and lyrics: honor culture. It is, to me, the most hateful and the most evil crime anyone can ever commit. To totally disgrace another human being like that, why? I never understood how cruel a person can be when honor culture is used to completely destroy another human being and call it honor. For me it is a mystery, a puzzle I will never be able to finish because I will never understand the whole picture. My eyes are made to see freedom, not captivity!

How has your personal background influenced your art?

My personal background has everything to do with my writing. Every word I write, every letter, every punctuation, is from every scar I have, every tear that I cried, every injustice I faced. Not a single word is fabricated or dramatized or up scaled. It’s all there, in the lines I write, between the lines as well when it is too painful to use the full information or too sensitive. When I need to protect myself or someone else then my words can sometimes be confusing but I think the people who live or lived with honor culture will understand every unwritten word and hear the tears behind some humorous sentences. I know you know. Because you see, I don’t only write for me. I write for you too.

About Dr. Pamela Chrabieh

Lebanese-Canadian Doctor of Sciences of Religions (University of Montreal, QC, Canada). Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies (American University in Dubai). Artist, Author, Blogger, Activist, and Mother of one daughter. Founder of the 'Red Lips High Heels' movement.

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One Response to Reeds from Red Lips Book – Meet our Authors!

  1. Charbel Hatem May 21, 2017 at 8:28 am #

    Great post. Will definitely buy the book. Congrats!!

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