Mohja Kahf's E-Mails to Scheherazad: A Riposte to the Parochial Perspectives of Identity
Identity is a sense of self compiled by an individual's constant negotiations with personal, communal, and national histories with continually shifting conjunctions and disjunctions, with socio-politico-cultural acceptances and rejections and invariably with others' perception of their self. It's a Sisyphean task to address identity as it involves an incessant process of deconstructing and re-constructing the signifying variables that answer the question 'Who Am I?' The situation is more complex for the diasporas as their conflict is twofold. They have to contest with both the sides of their hyphenated identity.
The Arab-American women writers are progressively and effectively contradicting the dogmatic and chauvinistic mindsets (both within and without the community) that are perpetually stifling their sense of dignity and identity. One such effort is made by Mohja Kahf through her jolting yet emotive poetry which is a counterstroke to all those who are trying to confine her existence in rigid patriarchal and racial enclosures. Kahf's E‑Mails from Scheherazad is a collection of powerful enunciations that shatter the dual stereotypes of race and gender. The paper is an endeavour to analyse how Kahf's poems challenges and pulverizes the rigid gendered bigotries? What are the complexities inherent in constructing an Arab-American identity? And how do Arab Muslim women negotiate their sense of self that is caught in a flux of belonging and non-belonging in a foreign land? The paper seeks to answer these questions by analysing the ways in which Kahf uses elements of storytelling in her poetry and makes her work celebrate the quintessential fabric of Arab womanhood.
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