Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Sharing Some Updates

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I hope everyone had a lovely summer. Mine was busy with the kids and now that they’ve gone back to school, I’d like to share some updates regarding my work.

1. My website got a makeover and soon I’ll be blogging posts that will inspire and help writers tell their stories, whether to get published or simply to heal and transform. Take a look by visiting http://www.weamnamou.com and following my new blog. Here’s a link to my first blog, called Abraham, The Storyteller: https://weamnamou.com/2017/09/08/abraham-lincoln-the-storyteller/

2. I’ve started a Meetup Group called “The Interactive Book Club” It starts Sept. 18 and in it, we’ll 1) Read a Book 2) Journal how the ancient lessons in the book apply to your daily life. 3) Put these concepts into practice
Check it out and RSVP! http://meetu.ps/3cZp6k

3. I’m keeping CulturalGlimpse.com for future use as I transition some of my work into videos and film.

Thank you so much for having taken the time to read my posts and being part of my journey. I do hope you stay connected.

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US Reviews of Books Reviews My Book

Healing Wisdom (FRONT COVER) (1)

Book reviewed by Carol Anderson, D.Min., ACSW, LMSW

“There was a silence so sacred, it was as if the earth beneath us was knitting its soil into a blanket and placing that blanket around us to honor our desire to acknowledge, respect, love, and help heal her wounds.”

Written by noted author Weam Namou, this memoir delves into a deep relationship between her past, present, and future with insights from her varied cultural experiences. Her autobiography (Book 1) has 28 chapters that stretch over 341 pages. Interesting chapters include her first meeting with her shaman, the history of growing up in Iraq and what it was like to move to America, and the story of her eating disorder and how she struggled with self-worth issues, including her over-eating. The chapters on the Great Nurturing Mother and the Creative Rainbow Mother explore how women are taught to take care of others while struggling with finding their own creative paths in life. The “Personal Evaluation Paper” chapter evaluates how the ancient teachings have helped her to heal, and the book ends with an exquisite poem dedicated to her mentor.

The story begins as the author contacts Lynn Andrews, a noted American shaman and author whose Mystery School teaches about sacred practices for healing. She makes this contact as she has been struggling to regain her voice in her literary pursuits, especially in light of family struggles, cultural differences, and trying to live within these two cultures while raising her two children with her more traditional husband. She commits to four years at the school, primarily working with Leslie, her guide. Through this, she discovers her Rainbow Mother self, that self that wants to fly into creativity and expansiveness, while being married to a Nurturing Mother energy husband who is more about tradition and control. She especially examines the relationship with her own mother who was a Nurturer but became a Death Mother that focused on negativity and misery. Throughout the memoir, she develops ways to set boundaries, work with both familial and cultural differences, and pave the way for a balance within herself, family and others—as well as within her endeavors of writing and film making.

The creative writing within the juxtaposition of the past and the future allows the reader to delve deeper into an understanding of not only the author and her varied life experiences but also within the Middle Eastern culture in which she was born. Being born in Iraq, the family immigrated to Detroit, Michigan, when she was age ten because of the ongoing struggles within the Middle East. The story weaves back and forth between her Christian Iraqi upbringing, the beauty of the Quran, mysticism, and the struggles for Iraq and democracy, all while facing issues in her personal life. Because of the work she does through the Mystery School, the reader is enveloped in her range of feelings from joy to sorrow, from struggle to acceptance, and from the here-and-now to the transcendent.

The writing is well-researched, eloquent, crisp, concise, and, at times, beautifully poetic. This is an honest, heart-driven account into the reflection of her personal issues. It provides a depth within the education she provides the reader about Iraqi culture including mystical beliefs and traditional healing. Along with her own healing through various teachers and practices such as Native traditions including shamanism, Reiki, yoga, chakra work, and Seichim, this work allows the reader to delve into the depths of the author’s belief systems and how she started on a healing path for herself and for her family.

Iraqi Americans Protest in Sterling Heights

Yesterday was an exhausting and sad day as I interviewed families of the 100+ Iraqi-born people who were rounded up Sunday from their homes, churches, restaurants, and one elderly was even taken out of the hospital. Some of them have been here since 1978 with “crimes” that consisted of a brawl in a bar and possession of marijuana over 25 years ago (when it was considered a felony, now it’s a misdemeanor).

Full story will be published by The Chaldean News.

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The US Book Review of My Book

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The US Book Review of my book The Great American Family: A Story of Political Disenchantment 

The true and gripping story of an all-American girl charged with illegally selling telecommunications equipment to Iraq. However, her co-conspirator turns out to be a CIA operative, possibly working on a project to bug Saddam Hussein and his top henchmen.

The author makes good use of firsthand accounts, skillfully weaving them together to show how the “War on Terror” has blurred or perhaps frayed our criminal justice system. As an Iraqi-American journalist the author has the prefect background to tell this story. Settings are well-depicted and characters come to life so that it’s tempting to skip ahead to learn the resolution. This book takes a hard look at how terrorism, oppression, and sanctions invite hypocrisy, abuse of power and double-dealing. One hopes this isn’t an example of the new normal for America but fears that it is.

Baghdad, the Gift of God

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They say that Baghdad means the “gift of God” in Persian. That definition reflects the memory I have of my birth country, not the news, which is saturated with accounts of prolific violence and a reign of terror. Instead, I visit that place, the past, which contains flavors of a happy childhood, of magic and mystery.

In the 1970s, children in Baghdad owned the streets during the hours when they were not in school. We were like the train gate in control of traffic. When a car drove by, we scattered left and right to make way, and once the car passed, we resumed to jump rope, hopscotch, tag, hide-and-go-seek, and play the all-time favorite game of marbles, where we drew a circle on the ground with a stick, placed all the marbles in the circle, then shot their smooth and brightly colored glass sphere to knock the other marbles out of the circle.

We did not worry about thieves or kidnappers because the majority of mothers stayed at home and watched the children, theirs and the whole neighborhoods’, as if they had binoculars implanted on all sides of their heads.

We didn’t have toys, board games, or electronic games. Television programming started at 6:00 pm, opening up with Quranic prayers, then children’s shows, followed by regular family programming, and the news. By midnight, the screen would go dark and then the colored bars came on, followed by the pink noise and static-filled screen. In the summer, two additional hours were added in the morning to get the kids out of their mother’s hair.

Our district was our amusement park.

We didn’t need waterslides, merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, roller coasters, cotton candy, popcorn, or lemonade. We just had a simple desire to be together, and to be creative.

Once the early morning winter frosts had given way to spring, the wild flowers and fruit trees sprouted over the land the way in which brown and yellow grass turned green here in America. There are more than 3,300 plants and flowers in Iraq. The scent of palm trees, fig trees, citrus trees, berries, Jasmine, sunflowers, and roses – the national flower of Iraq and the United States – is enough to cure ailments and feed the soul before their parts are removed and used for food or traditional medicine.

In the summer, our bedrooms were dismantled and our pillows, bed sheets, and blankets were carried to the rooftop, where they were set up in rows so we could sleep under an open sky. The rooftop was a real entertainment.

During broad daylight, we would go to the rooftop and watch the man in a white tank top smoke, his arms resting over the roofless wall; a woman hang bed sheets, pajamas, nightgowns, and men’s tank tops and pants on a clothesline; our neighbor’s older sister hold up a mirror in a well-lit corner as she plucked her eyebrows; a young student across the street who liked to pace back and forth while reading his book.

In the falling twilight we would crawl out of our beds on the rooftops to chase after the moon that changed direction whenever we changed direction. We’d stand on top of the beds, raise our voice, and call out to our friends next door, asking them, “What are you doing?” Or we argued about who the moon was actually following, us or them, until our mothers would hush us up and scuttle us back to bed. Lovers had their own secret way of utilizing the rooftop, which we were then too young to learn the details of.

Every July 14, we watched the fireworks celebrating the 1958 revolution that took place in Iraq, marking the overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy established by King Faisal in 1932 under the support of the British. One July 14, as we competed with the neighbors across our roof, we screamed so loud and jumped so hard that the bed broke and we fell through to the ground. The neighbors laughed hysterically and we got up, all red-faced.

Long before that, Baghdad was the center of learning and commerce where the House of Wisdom was built. The House of Wisdom, was a key institution in the translation movement where Greek, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese, and Syriac works were translated into Arabic and the concept of the library catalog was introduced. When the Mongol invaded Iraq in 1258, they destroyed the House of Wisdom, along with all other libraries in Baghdad, and that has become the story of Iraq’s life.

My family left Iraq when I was nine years old, and I didn’t visit that land until 20 years later. I spent Easter of 2000 in Baghdad, church hopping and eating pacha with relatives. I visited my parents’ and grandparents’ village of Telkaif in Mosul, and slept on the rooftop under the star filled night. Iraq was not the same as I remembered it, but I still had a lovely time.

This article was originally published by Arab America http://www.arabamerica.com/baghdad-gift-god/#.WO5FxRMpPxw.facebook

Author Nicholas Belardes and the Aboutness in Our Stories

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In 2012, I went on a four-day writer’s retreat in Colorado, which was led by Random-House author and literary agent Cicily Janus. Cicily, a young mother of three children, brought many authors, editors, and publishers together through her retreats. She had a number of health complications and passed away last year, but those who formed friendships thanks to her visions and dreams have continued to inspire each other. One such person is Nicholas Belardes, whose career I’ve followed with admiration – especially when he posts Facebook pictures of the beautiful locations where he writes and takes walks.

NAMOU: When did you decide to become a writer?

BELARDES: There was a moment early in grade school where I was asked to write a story. It turned out to be one of the first moments I was confronted with the idea that actual, real people write stories, that someone has to imagine them, someone’s mind has to be filled with words, and somehow those words have to spill onto the page.

I remember writing about hairy outer space creatures. It was kindergarten. Mrs. Robinson was the teacher. She always wore her brown hair in a bun. We’d visit her house, play with her dogs and cats. Her son lived in a converted barn behind a pond and he’d tell me stories, offer me food, tell me he was eating octopus. I’d run back by the pond imagining he was a real adventurer (because every adventurer must have octopus in jars to snack on). That time in the early 1970s in San Jose, California sparked something in me that never went away.

Actually deciding on becoming a writer was a slow process, something that haunted me on and off for many years. It flared up during episodes in my life where I took on writing jobs: creative writer for the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas, scene blogger, managing editor/journalist for an ABC News affiliate. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I dedicated my entire being to writing fiction, essays and poetry. I’d just been sidetracked up until then.

NAMOU: Why do you write?

BELARDES: I really don’t think there’s anything I’m skilled at other than writing. I fail at everything else.

NAMOU: What have you written and what are you working on at the minute?

BELARDES: Novels, an essay collection, a book of oddities, books of poetry, a memoir, cheesy animated shows, news articles, and a small mountain of short stories and graphic narratives. Some of all that is published, including some short stories in journals. “St. Augustine the Starfighter” is in Carve Magazine. “Gaspar” is in Pithead Chapel. “A Different Kind of Boiling Point” is in the Acentos Review.

At the minute I’m revising a literary fantasy novel. Last week I finished ghostwriting a novel for an African client. I take on ghostwriting to pay the bills. My personal efforts are mostly with the literary fantasy, though I am slowly developing a Middle Grade novel, which is being overseen by a literary agent. It’s all very weird, because the life of a writer is frustrating, exhilarating, annoying, depressing, challenging and fun!

NAMOU:  What are your ambitions for your writing career?

BELARDES: For now it’s a simple vision of finishing the literary fantasy and finding a literary agent who cares about it seeing the light of day as much as I do, and writing more publishable short stories.

NAMOU: Do you write full-time or part-time?

BELARDES: Full-time.

NAMOU: Where do the your ideas come from?

BELARDES: An idea can come from anywhere, a friend’s story told over the phone, a news article, an experience, brainstorming interests, a political reaction, a social reaction. As a dual ethnic I try to find connections to both my Latin X side and my white side. Some stories blend the two. Some are one or the other. It also really depends on what I’m intending to write at the moment.

Even ghostwriting may include a pre-formed outline, or one I completely make up to expand from. Those ideas come from discussions with a client, from pure creativity, research, and from my experience of understanding story and character. Maybe we can think of the realm of ideas as cloud banks whispering around us. They can take any shape. A writer must find a way into them.

NAMOU: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

BELARDES: I’ve become more socially aware. Reinventing myself along those lines has been important. Caring about the plight of farm workers, or immigration reform, or socially and culturally oppressed areas like that of Bakersfield, California, where I spent much of my life. It helps me to understand that good writing doesn’t just involve language, or charged language, but what Ezra Pound once wrote as “language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.”

Anything else, when it comes to my own work, is a waste of time. I have to consistently create a body of work that reflects this socially aware version of myself. For instance, in the short stories I mentioned, “St. Augustine the Starfighter” tackles child cruelty, and how we can grow out of the cruelty we inflict on the world as children. “Gaspar” is about living within an oppressive system and taking on those same characteristics (and needing a way out). “A Different Kind of Boiling Point” is about a retired farm labor leader. She realizes her own imperfections and failures are part of a path of penance and revolution. If we don’t find this aboutness in our stories, then why write them?

NAMOU: What is the hardest thing about writing?

BELARDES: Accepting more defeats than victories. There is an article I read recently that every writer should aim for a hundred rejections a year. That’s really not bad advice!

NAMOU: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

BELARDES: Aspiring writers really need to figure out what I meant by “language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.” Once they do, they will be on to something in their own lives, and in their own words. Oh, and take walks. Lots of walks. And connect to powerful writers. Be inspired by them. Say hello to them once in a while.

To learn more about Nicholas Belardes’ work, visit his website: onhttp://www.nicholasbelardes.com/

My Tribal and Powerful Mother

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It was a sunny April afternoon four years ago when I was working on my book that I received a call from Eman Jajonie-Daman, an attorney friend and magistrate at the 46th District Court. She said there were French reporters and filmmakers in town doing a web documentary entitled, My Beloved Enemy: Iraqi American Stories.

They wanted to cover an interesting story about an elderly Iraqi attaining their citizenship and hoped I could introduce them to Warina Zaya Bashou, who, at 111 years old, became the second oldest person to be granted U.S. citizenship. I had written an article about Warina the year prior, having lived only a few blocks from my house.

Warina was born in the then-Christian town of Telkaif in Iraq. One moment I remember clearly about our interview is when she said that the keys to living a long life are work, drinking tea, and not going to see the doctor. But when I called Warina’s family, they told me she had passed away a few months earlier.

I then invited the filmmakers over to my home to help them find another subject. An hour later, three beautiful and gracious French people came to my door – writer and director Claire Jeantet, co-director Fabrice Caterini, and chief cameraman Thomas Bernardi.

We had a little brunch, and they ended up interviewing my mom, who was visiting, about her experience in attaining her citizenship in 1997 – a tremendous accomplishment for her, since she had never gone to school. At that time, I helped her memorize fifty questions and answers about the United States, in Arabic, and I was permitted to be her interpreter during the examination. She had to get seven out of ten questions right. She only got one wrong answer.

“Why did you want to get your citizenship?” Claire, the director, asked my mother.

“I wanted to be like my children,” my mother said, and I interpreted. “They all got their citizenship, and so it was now my turn.”

I told the filmmakers how on the day of her naturalization, I was in a hurry to go to work. My mother wanted to take a picture with the judge, like the others had lined up to do. I did not see the point in a picture, though, and had not taken one when I received my citizenship. We left and ever since, when I thought about that day, I wished I had reacted differently. I did not realize it then, but this was my mother’s first major accomplishment for her outside of her home. She was proud to have received a document that honored her efforts; a reward, something that validated her capabilities outside of being a good housewife and mother.

“Now she got more than that picture that she had wanted sixteen years ago,” I said.

We laughed.

In September, the filmmakers showed the documentary at Visa pour L’Image, the premiere International Festival held in Perpignan, France.

“Oh Weam, your mother up there on the screen made a real impact,” Claire told me through Skype. “The audience loved her.”

Her words further illuminated what I had begun to understand about my mother, now that I myself was a wife and mother. This woman had deep tribal and ancestral powers that few people understood. Born in a village and never having gone to school, although she wished she had, she had impacted not only the lives of her twelve children and nearly two dozen grandchildren, but her story had landed in France and later traveled the world through the internet. And at eighty-years-old, she was not done yet.

That same year, my mother’s health drastically deteriorated. On several occasions, my siblings and I thought we were going to lose her. Later, we were also faced with difficult choices of who would care for her now that she was in a wheelchair and had dementia. In the end, I offered to take her into my home. The process has taught me quite a bit about God, life, and humanity.

My mother and I were so different. She was born and raised in Telkaif, a Christian village, and her parents, who lived on a farm, could not afford to send her off to school. I was born in the Muslim city of Baghdad and my attendance of school was as natural as learning jumping jacks. She married my father at age twelve. I married my husband at thirty-four. She never went anywhere alone and rarely left her home. I traveled the world alone.

Since I was young, I knew I had inherited my love for words, books, education, and adventure from my father. I didn’t realize until later in life that I could not have made my dreams come true without my mother’s teachings of discipline and faith in a higher power. She did not go to school, but she knew who she was, having made her life experiences her education.

This article was originally published by Arab America in honor of Women’s Month http://www.arabamerica.com/tribal-powerful-mother/#.WMlmTk7HNFg.facebook

My Beloved Enemy doc. link http://my-beloved-enemy.inediz.com/?a=391

 

3rd Publishers Weekly’s Review of My Books

Front Cover for Healing Wisdom Book 4 (300)

It’s difficult to get one book reviewed by Publishers Weekly let alone 3 books! But it can happen – as it did in my case, 3 books in a row!

Much love to my teachers Lynn V. Andrews and Nancy who worked with me on this fourth and final year of Lynn’s 4-year school.

Publishers Weekly review:

Accomplished spiritual coach and author Namou (The Flavor of Cultures) concludes her four-part memoir by describing her final year in Lynn Andrews’s shamanic school, Storm Eagle. Her new mentor, for the fourth year of the school, is Nancy. Just as in the other three books of this series, this new spiritual teacher has a profound impact on Namou’s journey. Nancy explains that the fourth year is about the apprentices working on themselves and that the year is designed to “help you come out into the world.”

A major portion of the book focuses on the preparation for the graduation ritual, and the ritual itself, which Namou describes in detail that draws the reader in. Familiar names from the previous books in this series make appearances. By the conclusion of this fourth book, it is apparent how Namou has benefitted as a person and writer. The weaving of family life and spiritual life throughout the series helps forge Namou into the person she is today, and she uses what she has learned to help others on their spiritual paths.

Link to full review http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-945371-94-3

Provoking Americans to Think and Become One Team

Today @ 3pm (EST) Ed Tyll will once again interview me. Will it be another political boxing match, as it was last summer? I had written a blog post of this very provocative 75 minute interview, where I’d predicted Trump would win and he’d called me, after many political punches, brilliant. Wonder what will happen today.

Cultural Glimpse

rainbow-flowerI was scheduled for a 20 minute interview at 2:30 pm by award winning talk show host Ed Tyll on Starcom Radio Network. Within a minute of our interview, I realized this was not the typical interview. It was a political rumble (one of my listeners called it egotistical bullying). I held my ground, threw my own political punches and 80 minutes later, he said, “You’re the most provocative person I’ve interviewed. You’re intelligent and brilliant and you never lost your femininity. I haven’t gone this much over an interview in 3 or 4 years.” He has been in this business for over 40 years. Oh, and he also invited me out to dinner.

Overall, the interview was fun, engaging and I saw, once again, how the lessons I’d learned from Lynn Andrews’ 4-year school about feminine power could be used as a tool to create harmony between people and…

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Meeting St. Pucchi, the Designer of my Wedding Dress

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A few days ago I discovered that a Facebook friend, Rani Totman, was the award-winning designer of my wedding dress. We’d connected a year ago through a book marketing program we had both joined. Recently, when I saw pictures of her standing next to rows of beautiful wedding gowns, I realized she’s the one who created the wedding dress which reflected my personal story, a story of a traditional woman with an ancient lineage who’d traveled the world and wrote books. Rani asked to see a picture of the dress and to share my story, so here I am, as my 12th wedding anniversary approaches, going down memory lane.

Years before I got married, I bought a wedding magazine as I was about to get engaged. There was only one dress that interested me, a ball gown with a tulle skirt. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for – I wanted something more couture and extravagant – but it was a good starting point in search of my perfect dress. I tore out the page and gave away the magazine. Too in love with books, I was not the type of girl who kept beauty or fashion magazines. That engagement did not work out, but I kept the picture of the dress in one of my drawers.

Years passed and my now-husband came into my life and asked for my hand in marriage. In our Chaldean culture, we go through many festivities before the wedding, one of the major ones being the engagement which, in our case, consisted of 150 guests (that was considered moderate in comparison to larger engagements).

One day, my brother’s fiancée called me at work and said, “Weam, I ordered a beautiful wedding dress that is at Orosdi Beck Fashions. I want you to go try it. I know you’ll love it.”

She’d ordered it for a wedding that didn’t happen, and she did not want to wear it now when she was marrying my brother. But because she’d put a deposit, it sat there waiting for someone to pick it up. And she thought it too special not to be worn.

“Okay,” I said reluctantly. “But I haven’t even gone shopping for my engagement dress yet.”

“Just try it, please! It’s so you.”

I said I would but didn’t make it a priority. At the time, I was a full-time student at the Motion Institute of Michigan, worked full-time, and was getting ready for the publication of my first book, The Feminine Art. I had a big to-do list – still do (guess some things never change). She called several times afterward to see if I’d gone yet, and each time, I had to give an excuse of why I hadn’t. She persisted, and finally, to get her to stop pestering me, I took one of my sisters to Orosdi Beck Fashions, which was famous for its couture dresses.

I quickly tried on the dress and when I walked out of the dressing room, my sister’s eyes and that of the owner widened. The moment I stood in front of the three-way mirror, the phone rang. It was my now-husband. He asked, “What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” I said, taken aback by what I saw in the mirror. The dress resembled the picture I had saved, but this one was much more exquisite. It was lavish and luxurious, to meet my culture’s tastes of an elaborate traditional wedding, yet clean and timeless, to meet my preference for elegance.

I told my then fiancé I’d call him later and the owner of Orosdi Beck came to take measurements. “This fits you so perfect, it doesn’t even need any alterations,” she said.

It was the first and last wedding dress I tried on,  a dress with a story I often tell women to help them realize their dreams. Having connected with the designer that made my dream a reality, I’m now also inspired by her story as a businesswoman.

Rani’s love of fine fashion started early, drawing on experience from her family’s business as the largest purveyors of fine lace in Thailand. Having earned a degree in English literature during her college years, and much to the dismay of her parents who did not want her to follow them into the fashion business, the story of St. Pucchi is an against all odds tale as success came to Rani without any formal fashion training. She pulled only from her experience growing up around fabrics, her lifelong enthusiasm for style and design, and remarkable natural talents that invoked her true calling as a designer at a young age. This led to her world-renowned Bridal house St. Pucchi. And recently, she published her book “Your Body, Your Style: Simple Tips on Dressing to Flatter Your Body Type.”

Sometimes, by making our dreams and fairytales come true, we illuminate the dreams of others.