"The Tale of Sajida al-Rishawi"

I imagine many Americans, when they think about terrorism, have definitive ideas of what it means. I imagine its moral implications are clear. I have to imagine because, for me, there is no such clarity. Instead, I am haunted by the face of a small, haggard woman with a simple white hijab and the eyes of a dead woman walking.

On the night of November 9th, 2005, I was settling into bed, a Peace Corps Volunteer in a small Bedouin village in the north of Jordan. A two hour bus ride south, in the capital Amman, four Iraqis strapped with explosives walked into three hotels. Fifty-four people died, mostly Jordanian and Lebanese Muslims. One bomber lived, and a few tense days later, Sajida al-Rishawi was caught.

Very little of that is why Sajida’s small, dark-eyed face and hunched shoulders have haunted my conscience for more than a decade.
I've talked about this moment in history before. It changed the tide of Jordanian public opinion against Al Qaeda, and the woman whose bomb didn't go off haunted me for a decade.

This story is particularly dear to my heart, and I couldn't be more pleased to announce that "Terrorist or Tragedy? My Struggle with the Tale of Sajida al-Rishawi" has been published at Gulf Stream Literary Magazine, the publication of the Creative Writing Program at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Read it in its entirety online.

I found this publishing opportunity through the Duotrope Weekly Wire email.
Duotrope: an award-winning resource for writers

The Little NGO That Could ... And Does!

Are you, like me, wondering how you can help Syrians today?

This Upworthy list includes a lot of places to donate. After the fiasco in Haiti, I would put the International Red Cross at the bottom of your list, and elevate an organization that was just an afterthought to Upworthy. When it comes to international development, Questscope is a story of an NGO that does it right.

Back in 2008, while I was unemployed in Jordan, I wrote a grant for Questscope. They had been one of many organizations who received about a million dollars each from the United Nations to create an informal education program for Iraqi refugees and Jordanian high school dropouts. Questscope was the only organization to successfully field their project, so at the end of the grant period, the UN came back to them. "This time, do you want forty million, or a hundred million?" they asked.

For all the good it does, the UN is unfortunately an organization too often impeded by a combination of grift and lax oversight. Questscope could easily have taken advantage.

"That Other Hijab Story"

“You weren’t pressured to cover up otherwise?”

“No.” Except for that one time that I never talk about....
A year ago, in the midst of outrage about yet another hijab-related civil rights fight, there was a renewed flurry of debate over the symbolism of the hijab, its place in Islam and its place in solidarity movements. I realized that there was a story about the hijab that I had never told, and that it was time to tell that story.

Read about that experience in "That Other Hijab Story" in the 2016 edition of From Sac on the theme of Outsiders. Buy it on CreateSpace!

I found this publishing opportunity through the Duotrope Weekly Wire email.
Duotrope: an award-winning resource for writers

$$$ For My Values

We are entering a difficult period in the history of American civil rights, and people keep asking, "What can I do?" It came up over Thanksgiving in my family, and this is the first of two posts with some suggestions.

I am not in a place right now where direct action is necessarily a responsible choice for me. I am, however, a professional fundraiser who earns above the median income. By day, I raise money for Neighborhood Trust, which empowers poor New Yorkers, mostly women, mostly of color, to make some of the nation's lowest incomes stretch a little farther. And as each of my own paychecks arrives, I am now part of a story Washington Post, New York Times and The Atlantic are reporting: an unprecedented flood of money to social justice nonprofits. Many have raised more funds since the election of Donald Trump than they usually raise in a quarter, or even a year. Most of those donations have been from new first-time donors, and a quarter or more are monthly recurring donations, because we know this will be a long, sustained fight.

This is my strategy.
I decided I could give $10 a month to six organizations. I get paid twice a month, and I timed my donations to hit my account a couple days after each paycheck, so that I won't spend that money on Starbucks instead. And I looked for organizations that prioritize direct support, legal defense and legislative advocacy. This is not an un-controversial position. I am strongly persuaded by the argument that the systems we have need to be broken down and rebuilt, but the pragmatist in me says that my investment makes a greater impact in the immediate short term when I work within the system, however imperfect.

These are my choices: