Thursday, May 2, 2013

Iraqi-born poet speaks at Grossmont College's Literary Arts Festival

Dunya Mikhail at Grossmont College
Dunya Mikhail is many things: a native of Iraq, a citizen of America, a respected poet, an award winner, and perhaps most of all, a brave and inspirational woman who has overcome many hurdles in order to live her dream.

On Monday, April 29th, Mikhail read poems and spoke about her life at Grossmont College’s Griffin Gate as part of the college’s 17th Annual Literary Arts Festival. 

 Mikhail was born in Baghdad in 1965 and lived there for 30 years, facing scrutiny from Iraqi censors and facing charges of being “anti-revolution” until she immigrated to the United States in 1995. The 2001 recipient of the U.N. Human Rights Award for Freedom in Writing, Mikhail has five books available in Arabic and two in English. Her first work published in English, The War Works Hard, won the 2005 PEN Translation Award and her second, Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea, was given the Arab American Book Award. Currently Mikhail lives and works in Detroit as a poet and lecturer on Arabic for Oakland University.

Like her poetry, Mikhail’s discussion covered many topics, ranging from the impact war had on her life in Iraq and continues to have on many others, to her immigration experience, to mythology, to Titantic, the first movie she saw when she moved to America.. Mikhail read poems and passages from her books as well as from a manuscript that will be published next year. Some pieces she read in both English and Arabic so that listeners could experience what she described as “the flavor of the language.”

Student Zorayda Leitch was introduced to Dunya Mikhail’s work through her English class at Grossmont three months ago, but already she is an ardent fan. She said Mikhail’s work plays an important role in telling the story of the wars in Iraq from a different, often overlooked, perspective. Leitch said she admires Mikhail not only for the work she produces but for the obstacles she has surmounted in order to do so.

  “I just think she’s so brave,” Leitch said. “I love her work and that she was able to come here and make this happen for herself and keep going with a passion of hers.”
-- Quinn Shadoan