Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Month: June, 2015

Iraqi Americans: The War Generation

Iraqi Americans the War Generation FRONT ONLY (2)

The War Generation, the first of the Iraqi Americans book series, was published today. It is a collection of 36 articles that I wrote over the years which paint a picture of Iraqi Americans’ political and social situation and their struggles. The views that leaders, politicians and activists I interviewed had about Iraq and the United States fascinated me, especially since their views largely differed from, or were not found in, mainstream media. Given these people’s direct connection to both countries, I felt it was important that their stories and perspectives be heard.

The War Generation has a large focus on Christianity and the biblical city of Nineveh because, after the 2003 US-led invasion, Christians were heavily targeted by fundamentalists. Many leaders foresaw the genocide that began in June 2014 against this group of people and tried for over a decade to establish an autonomous region in Nineveh for Christians and other minorities in Iraq. Their efforts were in vain.

The Iraqi Americans book series will not only focus on this community’s political issues but will also highlight its writers and artists, traditions, celebrations and ethnic cooking. Hopefully it will develop critical, aesthetic and creative sensibilities necessary for Iraqis and Americans to become better acquainted, and, as a result, motivate individuals to end the destructive acts that have, politically and economically, terrorized both the East and the West.

The book is available in print and eBook

Sleeping Bear Dunes

We visited Sleeping Bear Dunes last month. This park covers a 35-mile-long stretch of Lake Michigan’s eastern coastline as well as North and South Manitou islands. It was an adventure climbing up and rolling down the sandy mounds that reminded us of Baghdad’s deserts, walking barefoot alongside Lake Michigan, collecting rocks and getting lost while we were at it.

I later learned through online research that the park is named after a Chippewa legend of the sleeping bear. According to legend, an enormous forest fire drove a mother bear and her two cubs into the lake for shelter, to reach the opposite shore. After many miles of swimming, the two cubs wadded behind and eventually drowned. The mother bear arrived to shore and waited for her cups to appear.

“That’s a touching and nice story,” my Native American friend said when I told it to him. “A lot of tourist places have a mythical story which is the attraction.”

The Great Spirit, I continued, created two islands (North and South Manitou islands) to commemorate the cubs, and the winds buried the sleeping bear under the sands of the dunes where she waits to this day.

“That doesn’t sound like a gift from the Great Spirit,” he said. “It sounds like a mother that couldn’t take care of her cubs.”

He said that the Manitou in Canada originally came from the Michigan region, the Manitou Island, which translates as “the Creator’s Island.” When the English and the Americans were fighting during the Revolution and other wars, most Indians didn’t want to join either side so they went to Manitou Island in Ontario, just to get away from the fighting. When the fighting was over, and they wanted to return, the Americans would not allow them to return because they had alliance with King George at that point. So they had to stay in Canada.

“People in the clan system are still here,” my Native American friend said. “They haven’t gone anywhere. It’s the Sleeping Bear. It’s sleeping because you’re not using it. There are very powerful things there, but no one is using them. They can say there were little bears frolicking around there, whatever, but the Sleeping Bear is always here. It never left. It’s still waiting for good things. And these people that make war they don’t want to wake up the Sleeping Bear, because then the truth will come out.”