Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Poems from a Middle-Eastern perspective

This poetry collection was inspired by the events of September 11, but it also includes some of Nye's work from earlier collections. The poems focus on the lives of Arab-Americans and Arabs living in Middle Eastern countries, friends and family members of the author, and people from her imagination.

I love that this book of poetry turns people (who are so often reduced to statistics in the news) into real, living human beings that readers will empathize with, whatever their cultural background. The poems are written in free verse with extremely effective sensory imagery. The language is informal and personal, simple, accessible and evocative. I think that teens (or older readers, for that matter) will find that they will feel differently when they hear news of the Middle East after reading this book.

Nye imagines her grandmother (long dead) telling her, in the wake of September 11th, as the news media presents such negative images of Muslim culture: "Say this is not who we are." And Nye does say it, beautifully.

Awards: ALA Notable Book, 2003; ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 2003; National Book Award Honor Book, 2002; YALSA Ten Best Book for Young Adults, 2003

19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shiab Nye (Greenwillow Books, 2002)


  1. AnonymousJuly 10, 2007

    Totally unrelated, but ROCK ON - it was Commander Corriander Salmander and the Single Handed Belly Lander (or whatever) - you rock Darla for finding that. I love the strip when Calvin introduces it, saying something about it being a follow up to the Hooey author's first fit (said Hooey book). Hilarious!!

  2. I really need to expand my knowledge of poetry. Does this book remind you a little bit of The Breadwinner? That book also made me more aware of another culture; I read it to my class after 9/11 because I feel we are so dreadfully unaware of others' individuality. Well, maybe not you. By the way, I nominated you for the Rockin' Girls Blogger Award on my blog today.

  3. AnonymousJuly 11, 2007

    An avid reader, here via Bellazza...

  4. VA Gal - Thanks! I wish all my library patrons were so gratifyingly excited when I find information for them! I do miss Calvin and Hobbes. Although I have to say, now that I have kids of my own, I find myself empathizing with his parents way more than I did the first time I read the comic. I often think of the strip where the mom tells Calvin she's making stewed monkey heads or something to get him to eat his stuffed peppers, and then when Calvin is happily wondering if this part is an eye socket, and that part is a nose, his Dad pushes his plate away in disgust. Dinnertimes can be like that in my house! Thinking of Calvin helps me keep my sense of humor. :-)

    Bellezza - Wow, thanks for the nomination! That is very exciting. I have not read The Breadwinner - I will have to check it out. Is it poetry, too? I think we can all benefit from a periodic dose of exposure to other cultures, just to keep us from living in too tiny a bubble, if you know what I mean. That's why I read this poetry collection in the first place.

    And motherpie - thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. I've never been a big poetry person, but this sounds fantastic!

  6. I honestly don't read much poetry either, Stephanie. I think it was beaten to a pulp for me in high school, so unfortunately it's not something I tend to pick up. This one came across my desk, and I flipped it open to take a look, and found myself engrossed.

  7. Nope, Breadwinner is not poetry. It's a lovely little girl in the Middle East who must dress as a man when her father is unfairly arrested (for being educated at Oxford). She goes out to find a job to support her family. Supposedly it's for children, but it is pretty heavy stuff. I don't want to explain too much detail here in case you want to read it yourself.

  8. That does sound a bit heavy for a children's book - but I guess for every book there's a reader. Thanks for not giving away any spoilers! I'll put it on my (way too long) list of books to check out. Thanks!


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