a story of atoms

This is where I document thoughts that race through my head and swim through my veins.

Tag: storytelling

Storytelling: Palestinians and the Single Story

“To create a single story, show a people as one

thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become.”

Chimamanda Adichie, Nigerian author

As Palestinians, our stories are told for us. If we’re lucky, the narrator might be Palestinian. However, this is usually not the case. Those with power, political and economic power, become the storytellers of our land and of our people.  They construct all the bits needed to create their story; the characters and the setting are (ironically) clearly defined, the plot is cropped and rearranged, and the genre is carefully selected.

Despite shackling efforts, our land also tells stories; Palestinian land is also a victim of the single story. If anyone were to examine a Palestinian map from 1946 till today, that person would be reading the autobiography of its rape. Then again, it depends whose side of the map you are reading. These stories, these single stories about Palestine and Palestinians are meant to create stereotypes and dehumanize us. In these single stories, we can no longer be seen as human equals. After one is exposed to these single stories long enough, one dimension arises, cloaking the complex nature of an entire nationality. And that’s all we become.

Yet, Palestinians are made of many stories and each Palestinian is a storyteller. As a student studying at Birzeit University, I can tell you many stories. I can tell you the story of signing up for a summer programming course in my first year of college, then later discovering that the professor meant to teach the course was arrested by Israeli soldiers. It has been two years and he has not been released since. Posters of the professor crowd almost every wall in the IT faculty with letters from faithful students describing their hurt. Whenever I visit the IT faculty, I can feel the weight of emptiness that swallows the corridors. The letters and posters made by students make it impossible to feel otherwise.

I can tell you the story of Saji Darwish, a fellow university student and how he was murdered by Israeli soldiers in the village of Bet’ein while strolling down his hometown roads. I can tell you how the University was a graveyard that day. No classes were held; the students that arrived felt the thick, suffocating air that wrapped us whole as we waited for his funeral. There was an unforgiving quiet that day. A silence that the University had never known. Even the usual morning birds had taken part in this silence. It was as if they were praying with us. Posters of his face haunt the University walls, classrooms, and even desks.

I can tell you the story of Leena Khattab who is also a fellow university student that had been arrested while she was protesting and was sentenced for six months. Six months passed and she was released. On the day of her release at the Jabara checkpoint, her family and friends had been anxiously waiting for her to fly out of the caged gates, racing to her freedom. However, not all stories are as liberating as Leena’s.

It was the first of August when I passed through the University’s entrance and saw a yellow poster with writing in the color of blood, hanging from a stand. Next to the writing was a face of a young man dressed in a sky-pink button up. A crescent -shaped smile hung on his face. He seemed younger than me by a year or so. The first thought that came to mind was “How many more faces will greet me good morning as I pass through these gates?” How many more faces will stare back at me as I rush to my classes? The young man’s name is Layth Al-Khaldi, a seventeen year old boy who was murdered by Israeli soldiers in the midst of a protest for the burning of the infant Ali Dawabsheh the day before. Ali Dawabsheh and his family are another tragic story.

“A lump of coal” was how a medic described the remains of 18 month old Ali, a victim of   fire bomb thrown into his house by Israeli settlers in the tiny village of Duma, Nablus. I can only imagine the insatiable flames that draped Ali in its arms, rocking him to death as his bottle laid next to him, still warm with milk.  The arms of the flames stretched out of his room, dancing on its fingers into the house, claiming territory with every touch.  Fire, unlike its lighters, does not discriminate; Ali’s mother, father, and brother were also cradled in its arms. Nature cannot be made into a single story even if those with fire tell us otherwise.

These are only a handful of stories I can tell you from my daily visits to college as I walk past haunted walls with pasted posters or as I commute from village to village with the radio narrating these stories that remind every Palestinian of the importance of storytelling. Specifically,  our storytelling. We are people scattered and slaughtered. We are people with dreams living in a nightmare in a land that has tasted too much blood.

These are the stories of Palestinians and Palestine in recent months and they all share one common thread; to be Palestinian is to be a victim of occupation, to be victim of a single story. To be Palestinian is to be a storyteller but someone else does the storytelling.


Conversations held in my naive mind: part 2

“What if I’m afraid of becoming?”, I confessed. Relief somewhat overtook me as the words finally slipped from my lips. I had tucked these words inside of me like a deep secret for as long as I could, but now, the secret was released.

The old woman considered my confession for a brief moment. Her eyes met mine.

“Then you’ll never become.” The words poured from her lips like water gliding from a faucet.

conversations held in my naive mind

“How can I become when I’m always unbecoming?” I asked, as the words peeled the layers of my throat.

“Ah, my dear. As you will soon learn, unbecoming is the first step of becoming.” The old woman reassured.

And so I became.

storytelling: the scary stories we tell ourselves

A knot ties in your stomach. Heat streams through your system. Palms get sweaty. Your heart somersaults between every beat and your mind goes blank.

What is fear? I once heard  an author* on Ted Talks give the most perfect definition of fear. She said; ” What if  instead of  calling fears by a different name? What if we called them stories? Because that’s what fear is when you think about it. It’s a kind of  unintentional storytelling that we are all born knowing how to do.”

Well, if you’re anything like me,  you are quite an expert at this form of storytelling. See, I have a painfully bad habit of narrating awful, undesirable events when I set my mind to change something about my life. The thing about fear is that it’s subtle and it emerges when you try to take on a new course.  So,when I decide to change something about my life, something that would help me grow; it comes. An unwelcome visitor, fear flicks its tongue into my ear and suddenly, threads of  trepidation tangle my mind. I begin to question who I am and whom I long to become.

Nonetheless, fear is quite interesting. It morphs in the mind and dances at our ears. To grow, it requires nourishment;  to shrink, it requires neglect. It’s found in all of us and comes in different forms and sizes. Fear, at a glance, seems almost human.

So, fear definitely has a place in our lives but we must remind ourselves that it lives in the most dangerous place a human can resort to; the imagination. The imagination acts as both a graveyard and a place of birth; a graveyard to dreams and a place of birth to fears.  If left unchecked,the imagination  hangs on web-like threads awaiting a shift in any direction. That direction lead to the murder fear. Fear, like all stories, originates in the mind.

And here I was, living in the darkest alleys in my mind, shifting.

Fear,despite being a powerful form of storytelling, can be eradicated. I don’t have live in the darkest alleys of my mind. You don’t either.  Like all stories, fears can die by not giving them life. Simply, don’t narrate it. Ignore the story-line and begin writing another plot; one you actually like. Because, dreams, like fears, are also stories. Great stories. They too originate in the mind. The imagination is also a graveyard to fears and a place of birth to dreams. It’s still considered dangerous because of its delicate nature, shifting in varying directions. Dreams, unlike fears, are guardians of the self. Hence, we must strive to become storytellers of our dreams. Hopefully, our actions will do the talking.

* Kathryn Walker

Storytelling: redefinition, words, and life

Sometimes, when my mind doesn’t escape my cranium and drift and wander in the surrounding atmosphere; I pay attention in class.
And when I do pay attention, I learn that professors can say enlightening things. Sometimes. My cultural studies teacher said something that caused my brain to remain leashed inside my skull. He said something of these lines;” History [ itself] has no meaning… It is the meanings we derive from it that are of any significance.”
To me, history is one big story. Most of it is based on true events from a historian’s or a group of specialists’ perspective. It contains some bias, factual information, and, most interestingly, a plot. Events tend to be summarized to bits, but the general theme is preserved.
So, this got me thinking. What about our own histories? Do the narratives we spin about our own lives truly have no meaning? Are our storybooks simply print and pages in our consciousness? Do all the events firing the rising action of our lives lack drops of significance? Well, it depends on our perspectives.
We tend to be third person point of views when it comes to the inevitable events shaping our lives. However, when we switch to first person, we must be aware of the mood we are creating,as it is recorded in our minds. We must remember all that matters is the meaning unfolded from life. It has no meaning, no emotion except those we associate it with. Be gentle with your pen as you redefine your storyline. That’s all we are sometimes. Stories.

Palestinians and storytelling

“We teach life,sir.”- Rafeef Ziadah

What else could we possibly teach?Palestinians know one thing; pain. Pain, which might as well be added into the dictionary as another synonym for life. Specifically, the life of a Palestinian.All Palestinians share more than just blurred nationality. We are living stories sprinkled across the globe, awaiting a different ending. We are mothers of children with life sentences for imaginary crimes. We are underpaid, overworked fathers scrapping just enough harvest for the day. We daughters and sons searching for our voices above the noise called the news.

We are a different kind of story. One with a setting internationally unrecognized. Our single plot is cropped and rearranged several times and our own dialogue is ignored. Our whole lives are cliffhangers just when things seemed figured out.

We are a unique combination of genres. Over the world we are healers, leaders, teachers, investors, and most of all; recognized.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

Storytelling: an introduction

A word is the smallest element in speech that holds meaning. Words. We begin learning how to talk before speaking. We splutter out syllables and expression that tell stories like “mama”, “baba”, or “ball” throughout the first two years of our lives. Humans learn to communicate their ideas as they adapt to the world.Hence, we all use words on a daily basis and recognize their weight.

Personally, I’ve always loved words. I love that they can be shaded in with tone and,in an instant,animated with sparks.  Blazing into our eyes and warming us inside.