In her introduction to "19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East," Naomi Shihab Nye writes that after the September 11 attacks, "a huge shadow had been cast across the lives of so many innocent people and an ancient culture's pride." (Nye, xv) As an American born girl with a Middle Eastern father, Nye can write from behind that shadow, shedding light on the tormented hearts of Arab-Americans trying to come to terms with September 11th.
When Americans think of the Middle East, we often think only of the hatred and violence of terrorism. It is important, therefore, to read poetry by writers like Nye, who help us to remember that there is love, generosity and beauty to be found there too. Her poems have a beautiful simplicity and loving honesty that can speak to both children and adults.
I especially connected to the poems Nye wrote about the members of her family, such as "For Mohammed on the Mountain" and "My Grandmother in the Stars". The poem about her uncle inspired me to write about family members I hardly know or have never met. Reading Naomi Shihab Nye's poetry reminded me of the great wealth we all have of places and people who are especially deep in our hearts--a richness unique to our own experience that can be a wonderful source of writing material.
Nye is a shining example of a writer who uses her gift to promote a message of peace and understanding in a world stained with fear, hate and close-mindedness.