WHERE BIRDS GO FOR CLEAN WATER THESE DAYS Well, it hasn’t come to this yet. But it may, at the rate our wetlands are being filled in and paved over. Worse yet, without the natural filter of wetlands, soon humans won’t have water fit to drink, either. To find out what you can do, Please callAnd help keep our waters a fountain of life. Si,:ond Strect, s a cA www..ierraclubAqg Several more works provide fascinating glimpses into the Middle East and Africa. girls restrained by gender bias. Maud Sulter tribute strong political poems about black women in dialogue with Mother Africa. Taslima Nassrin, who was banned from Islamic Bangladesh society, offers a bitter satire about the objectification of women. The poem, “Female Goods,” ends with these dissident lines: This female item can be used any way you like! If you wish, chain her feet, chain her hands, put her mind in chains. If you wish, divorce her, say divorce, and you’ve divorced her. Two accounts by political prisoners feminist Nawal El Saadawi in Egypt and Joyce Sikakane, a member of the African National Congress in South Africa are suspenseful and chilling. These women are subject to every form of illegal harassment without ever being charged, except for vague “crimes against the state.” The crimes of the state, meanwhile, are anything but vague. Rounding out the Middle Eastern contributions is an excerpt from Nuha Al Radi’s unpublished “Baghdad Diary,” which charts in simple detail the frustrations of a powerless civilian population bombed into submission. This is the other side of the Gulf War story about a sensitive young woman living without electricity or water and running out of food and medical supplies. Her crumbling world of shattered glass and toxic smoke offers a stark contrast to our view of the Pentagon’s “video war.” On the thirteenth day of the bombing, she wearily wonders: “Is the world mad? Do they realize what they are doing? I think Bush is a criminal. This country is totally ruined. Who gives Americans the license to bomb at will?” The impressive Latina contributions include a chapter from the famous novel, The House of Spirits, by Chile’s Isabel Allende; by Rosario Castellanos, one of Mexico’s modern literary giants and pioneering feminists; and a moving story by Judith Ortiz American community attempting to comfort a grieving elder who has lost her husband and only son in rapid succession. There is also a touching account of the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires by an unknown writer published here for the first time. In “Arriving at the Plaza,” Matilde Mellibovsky, one of the founders of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, describes their ongoing vigil to the memory of Argentina’s disappeared. Three other writers, who have appeared at the San Antonio Inter-American Bookfair and Literary Festival in recent years, also offer lively texts. Latina Demetria Martinez writes about the sanctuary movement, and Native American Leslie Marmon Silko recounts hostile meetings with “The Border Patrol State” in New Mexico. Silko, who was raised on the Laguna Pueblo reservation, laments all of the current euphemisms invented for people of color immigration, illegal aliens, street crime, welfare fraud because they mask the injustices too often experienced by U.S. citizens at the hands of state officials. It is no wonder that a poet like Joy Harjo, a member of the Creek Nation of Oklahoma, writes that “We will make a river, / flood this city built of passion / with fire, / with a In closing, I wish to highlight six narratives that are not bound by time-frame or cultural milieu, although they are linked in subtle ways to the complex theme of exile. Iran’s Mahnaz Afkhami, Poland’s Eva Hoffman, and India’s Meena Alexander examine the psychic wounds inflicted by exile, as they reveal the spiritual courage necessary for evolving a higher sense of self in an adopted country. The lucid insights of these essays cast the postmodern obsession with ego-identity into the tabloid margins of self-indulgence. Claribel Alegria of El Salvador speaks passionately about the writer’s commitment to reclaim one’s homeland as the essential context for writing about human rights, even when political pressure prevents her actual return from the diaspora. Nadine Gordimer, 1991 Nobel Laureate for Literature, explores the nuances of separation that of her fellow white South Africans from their own origins; the brutal apartheid which stole a world and its sacred birthrights from the indigenous black people; and her personal alienation within the rotting core of colonialism. Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a profound message in “Freedom from Fear,” which would be a perfect epigraph for A Map of Hope. Even though she has been under house arrest for a decade another form of exile she calls out for a fearless non-violence as the only antidote against the longstanding military regime in Burma. “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power,” she writes, “corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” If ever there were a book of voices to sing out the last days of our century and a hopeful cartography to guide us into the new millennium, it is this illuminated map for the ages. Robert Bonazzi is at work on Humane Rites, a book of essays about human rights recent book, Man In the Mirror, about John Howard Griffin, has gone into a second printing by Orbis Books. NOVEMBER 12, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
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