Crossing Borders, The Immigrant Voice in American Literature
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Panelist, Elmaz Abinader

Elmaz Abinader Elmaz Abinader has been an influential voice in American Literature for almost two decades. Her work, from her memoir to her poetry to her performance work, resonates with the complications of the history of our country, its relationship to other cultures and itself. Elmaz is a recent winner of the GOLDIE Award for Literature for 2002.

Abinader makes no secret of her concerns in her writing. She wants to bring the story of Arab-Americans to the literature of inclusion in this country and she uses every means she can master, from writing to acting. The doors for writers of under represented cultures is a major concern.

Her first major work, Children of the Roojme, A Family's Journey from Lebanon (Norton, 1991, University of Wisconsin, 1997) was a result of a Post Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities where she worked with Nobelist Toni Morrison. Early in her career, she won an Academy of American Poets Award and most recently, A Fulbright Senior Scholarship in Egypt.

In her collection, In the Country of My Dreams, Abinader brings together poetry about internal and external geographies. This Collection has been awarded the 2000 Oakland PEN Josephine Miles Literary Award for Multi-cultural Poetry. Many of these works have appeared in anthologies and journals and have won several awards. In addition her poetry has been included in the award winning anthology, The Poetry of Arab Women.

She has contributed articles to major collections and newspapers. Most recently her work, Just Off Main Street appeared in an Anthology Writers on America released by the State Department. She discusses this project on NPR's Sunday Edition. Other feature articles include, Profiles a post-9-11 article in the Living Issue of Creative Non Fiction and Pain in Familiar Faces, published in 2002 in New York NewsDay

Elmaz Abinader's Plays have travelled the world. Country of Origin, the storytelling performance Abinader has written and performed has won two Drammies, Portland's Critic's Circle Awards for Theater. This compelling, three-act, one-woman show, portrays the lives of three Arab-American women struggling with cultural conflict and expectations. The original music for Country of Origin was composed by Tony Khalife. Her new play, Under the Ramadan Moon has had several touring dates with more upcoming. In this play, she explores the typical stereotypes associated with Arabs and Arab-Americans, and give a new view to a stale perspective. Her current work, When Silence is Frightening, offers three vignettes about Palestine.

Elmaz Abinader's years as a creative writing teacher has prepped her for public presentation and exciting and accessible performing. Throughout her career, she has focused on the stimulation and growth of young writers-of-color, particularly through her participation in the Hurston-Wright Writers' Week West and The Voice of Our Nations Arts Foundation. With a novel and a travel memoir in the works, Abinader's voice will resonate for a long time to come. By working with The Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation she promotes a centralizing of the voices and traditions of writers of color.

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