Sara Saleh on writing women’s history into fiction

Sara Saleh on writing women's history into fiction

Sara Saleh is an award-winning writer, poet, human rights lawyer, and the daughter of migrants from Palestine, Egypt, and Lebanon. Her poems, short stories, and essays have been widely published nationally in English and Arabic. She is co-editor of the groundbreaking 2019 anthology Arab, Australian, Other, and made history as the first poet to win both the Australian Book Review's 2021 Peter Porter Poetry Prize and the Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize 2020. Songs for the Dead and the Living (2023) is her first novel.

Sara Saleh on writing women's history into fiction


ASTRID: Sara, so, so, so many congratulations on Songs for the Dead and Living.

SARA: Thank you so much. I'm still in shock that it is happening.

ASTRID: It is very much happening. Now, we are speaking about Songs for the Dead and the Living in the week of publication. I am relatively confident that most people who listen to The Garret won't have yet read your novel. Because of that, would you give us the quick introduction so people can place this book and novel in the context of what is now out in the world.

SARA: I think the best place to start is to talk about the family, the large, loving, chaotic family that is at the heart of Songs for the Dead and the Living. The Husseini’s live in Lebanon in Beirut as undocumented Palestinians. The story begins with their exile, once again, from Lebanon because of the civil wars, but previous to that, Palestine and Lebanon. Once the civil war happens they find they have to leave. The story is told through the youngest daughter, Jamilah. And as with most teenagers, Jamilah is very much wanting to explore wanting to go out there and live her best life, her dreams, make stuff happen. But it's also very hard to do that when you're in a context where you are stuck between that and wanting stability and family and safety, again, things you don't necessarily have as someone who's growing up in this context of uncertainty, being undocumented and being exiled from place to place. So ultimately, we are following Jamilah live this journey through places, but also her personal journey as she is trying to find a way to fully be herself, whatever that might look like. We start in Beirut, we touch on Palestine, but we start in Beirut, go to Cairo, and then find ourselves in Sydney.

ASTRID: You are a poet and an editor, and this is your debut novel. Before we really dive into the interiority of the novel, I wanted to ask a big question. Why the move from poetry to fiction?

SARA: I mean, it is a big question. But in a way, it's not as well, because as someone who is a writer and who's traversed many mediums, I think for me, it's always been two things. It's wanting to challenge myself as a writer, and also thinking about what the best way is to get across, you know, the heart of it. Every piece of writing or every piece of work that you put out there has a message. What is the best way to convey this message? What is the best medium? It's definitely along the lines of the content and the story being the ultimate decider. But also, where do I find myself? And where am I going to have a little bit of fun? If, you know, your idea of fun is writing and 80,000 plus words. Yes, that's part of it. For me that was the idea. Please don't hold this against me, but I started out writing terrible songs when I was like, six. And so that is the journey of Sara Saleh, started writing terrible songs about things like the four seasons. And then went from there to more, I guess you could say, non-fiction, particularly in the academic realms, and then from there, fell into poetry, and so on. So just getting really excited about language and how to play with it, and the stories that I want to tell and where that best fits.

ASTRID: A few minutes ago, you said the phrase finding myself, as in what mode of writing you might find yourself? Can we interrogate that a little bit?

SARA: I think, because I'm someone who really enjoys language, for me, this has always been about being able to tell the story. But you know, you can talk and tell the exact same story in a poem, but is it going to get that across? And is that going to give me the scope and the ability to explore some of the themes that I want, and have these conversations and so, it's a journey. I'm not trying to limit myself, and so if I I wanted to write a different genre tomorrow, I will, if I'm tickled by it. Or, you know, if I've come across something that's amazing, and I'm like, yes, that is my next goal. I'll do it. It doesn't mean I'm going to be particularly good at it, because obviously, these things don't happen overnight. And that's part of it as well. It's this challenge. As I said, I really like to challenge myself as a writer. I really enjoy – as a complex person, as most of us do – multiple genres, multiple mediums, multiple themes and being able to experiment with that and take my time doing it as well. I always knew I wanted to write a book, but honestly, it came around a lot sooner than I had intended. Everyone around me was saying you're ready and I just thought to myself I don't think I am. And then, you know, you've waited, you've been writing, you've been working, working hard and disciplined for the last 10 years, you are ready. It took a little bit of support and hype from other people to believe that. But I think for me, it's also perhaps a little bit of fear around wanting… like if we're going to do the damn thing, because we want to do the damn thing and we're excited about it, we also want to do it well. I wanted to give myself the time, the time and space to get to that point where I felt ready. But also, there was a little bit of fear. It was easier to hide behind it and pretend I wasn't ready. But here we are.

ASTRID: Here we are. And now I want to know the origin story, the thinking process that you obviously did, personally, as you came to decide that you wanted to write long form fiction. And also, as you decided to write this particular story – which is fiction, it is a novel – but it's also inspired by the experience of previous generations of your family.

SARA: That's right. It took me close to four years to write this novel. But I also say in a lot of ways, it's been the journey of a lifetime, or it's taken me a lifetime. And in some ways, almost, I'll go further and say it's taken 75 years plus in the context of the Nakba, Palestine and 1948, and then the Lebanese civil war. So, you know, all these things had to happen for Sara to be here, to be writing this novel and telling the story.

And interestingly, when I started out writing, this was meant to be a speculative fiction novel. So that's how I started out writing. The first bits that I'd written… the first chapters were based in a detention centre. For those that might not know, I've also for a very long time been active in the organizing space for a refugee rights and racial justice, and spent a lot of time advocating against Australia's terrible immigration policies and indefinite detention. I found myself writing the story there.

In a way, just as a very quick side note, I've said that the family is undocumented, the family at the heart of this novel. I think for me, exploring people who are undocumented, people who are of refugee background and asylum seeker background and who end up incarcerated, all these things, for me are interconnected. It speaks to sort of like the absurdity of these notions of borders and citizenship, and how we inherit these random things, and again, find ourselves in these places.

It's like what I said earlier, all these things had to happen for me to be here. To go back to the initial point, which is – and this is very much an Arab mode, not to generalize this storytelling, where we just follow all these different threads – I initially started writing this as a spec-fic. But Jamilah, the main character in the novel, just kept coming to me, and specifically, the theme – I don't want to spoil it, but there is an event happening – and they have to leave, specifically, the exile, the point of when they have to leave Lebanon and flee because of the war. That kept coming to me, the family kept coming to me, and I was seeing it play out. I think this is probably in no small part because of the fact that I was also at a time thinking about my personal journey of healing, which led me inevitably to my parents, of course, their stories, their contexts, their origin stories, and how their origin stories have affected me, and why I'm the way that I am and how that's playing out in everyday relationships and in art.

I was delving into their stories and their contexts, why they ended up the way they are, and how something that happened so long ago, in one instant, could have an impact on us and on the trajectory of our lives decades ago to bring us here. I'm fascinated by this, wanting to process this incident, and how it shaped who we are, how we are, and how we love, and how we leave.

I start with this incident in hopes that I can find answers for myself, process the event. Then I can at least stop being haunted by the ghosts of these questions, you know, for my family and their story. I'll just add that no one will be able to honor the incredible women in my family, who are in mainstream presumed to be, as Arab and Muslim women, presumed to be misunderstood and misrepresented. No one can honor them and tell their stories better than I can as their daughter. I'm fluent in their language, beyond, you know, the literal language, and I wanted to record their stories and share them. And that was the inspiration, as you said, for this book.

ASTRID: All of that fascinates me, and I'm going to ask a nerdy writerly question right now. But if you started out writing spec-fic – which for the record is my favorite genre, so please also write that book – how did you then come to this other story? You know, the character of Jamilah took over and insisted done being heard? How did you put on the page?

SARA: It feels like vastly different stories. And they are, because also the spec-fic was going to be set in the future. And again, I was looking at – I won't spoil it in case I do end up writing of one day – but the frame of reference was much more about this colony, and present and future Islamophobia, if I can put it that way. But I think this was, as I said to you, this has been percolating at the back of my mind for a very long time, in any case, so it was almost like I was thinking about it, not intentionally as a story. But it ends up being, you know, the story in some ways that we tell ourselves.

It's funny, because I think you use the word persistent. That story in that family persisted. I could not ignore them if I had to tried. But for me, the other thing that I think worked well is, as I was writing this piece of spec-fic, thinking that that was the direction I was going to go down, I had been asked to write a short story for another collection by Sweatshop called Racism. This ended up being a short story that I focused on. It was meant to be a discrete short story for the collection.

Then I ended up, when I wrote the chapter and again, that chapter on exile, I realized that I couldn't stop there. They were definitely not going to let me – they being characters, but they also being my editors, and writers and peers around me. I ended up continuing. And I think interesting, because as a nerdy answer to sort of your nerdy question, the way that this was written was not linear. I think that is reflective of the fractures that people who have, I want to say broadly trauma, but this book and the story isn't just about trauma, but experiencing these big ruptures in your life and processing these moments in no way happens in a linear, neat fashion. I think the way that this book was written was very reflective of or paralleled that process of me processing these things.

Speaking to my Mum, for example, I'm getting her story – and I want to talk about that a little bit more –but speaking to her and getting her input, bits and pieces on what happened and how she experienced that was very important for Sara the daughter to process and to speak to her about, but Sara, the writer, I was inspired by that. But it wasn't… that's not where I stopped. That's not what I limited myself to writing in a sense, because I wanted to be able to imagine and reimagine what was taking place. That's why the book is fiction, ultimately, although I think the feelings are the same.

ASTRID: You mentioned trauma before. And yes, there is trauma in this work, but it is not a book about trauma. I read this, and the way I would describe this novel, Sara, is it's a book about women. And it's a book about the experiences of women, and the ways that women experience loss, but also experience the bonds of family and continuing to build that family across generations and across time. So that's how I read it.

Let's stick with your Mum for a minute. Those personal conversations that you had with your Mum, and you know, noting the distinction between Sara the daughter and Sara the writer, what was that process like for you?

SARA: You know, I think writing the story was a really special way to connect with my Mum, because prior to this, I had no idea of her experiences relating to the war in Libya, in Lebanon, and the exile, because she didn't talk about it. I think possibly because that was too difficult, possibly because there was a little bit of shame around it as well. There are multiple layers to unpack here. Shame around being this person who is undocumented and isn't accepted or seen by the Lebanese government, as being someone who is of a Palestinian descent. I don't want to get into like the nuances of the politics too much now, it is in the book, and it might be confusing, and that's okay, because I think life and these issues are confusing, but they're also so simple, as I said. But in any case, the shame of being this undocumented person living in Lebanon and then being displaced from your home. So, they didn't want to talk about that, because there's that shame around that and notions of silencing, because it's not okay to talk about these things openly, to accept that you are you're someone who's displaced in a sense, and that also goes for the initial displacement from Palestine as well. There was a lot of, I guess, silencing and a lot of not talking about these things.

Partly I also wonder if maybe we didn't talk about it because nobody ever bothered to ask. I didn't ask because I realized that there was a lot a lot there, a lot of trauma sitting there, and I didn't feel like I was equipped to address it at the time or to have the proper conversations yet, but I felt like I was getting there. And so, this book, having something tangible, something accountable, almost saying to Mum, I need this for this purpose, she felt a bit more encouraged or buoyed. Otherwise, it wouldn't be valid for her to speak to her feelings for no purpose or reason. But now that there was research, the stakes were presumably higher for her, she felt like she could talk about it and it encouraged her. We had a lot of these kind of kitchen, you know, countertop conversations.

That was part of the research process, which for me was so enriching, and it made me again realize how where we are isn't the result of the random, and it shaped a lot of my family. But having said that, I think there's a distinction between letting things just happen to you, as though we have no agency versus the ability to make choices. It means that the parameters and the circumstances within which we make those choices are already set. And again, sometimes they're harsh, or they're limited, or they're absurd, but they are what they are, and you just have to make the choices within them. That's what defines you.

So yes, there was that, I think, relationship with my Mum, and it was so beautiful to see that flourish. But ultimately, the only other thing that I want to add is that, you know, I am generally very interested in writing about Arab women, as you can probably tell with a lot of my poems and a lot of my writing. I'm interested in our stories and how we speak back to things like borders and patriarchy and partners. And especially because, and I've said this before and I will continue to say it, we’re not invisible, we're not silence, we're not silent. You know, we have been invisiblalised and silenced and excluded. But the most beautiful survival, but also thriving, has happened in the smallest ways, like in subversions, and softness, and the sisterhoods, which I hope , is something that has come out of this novel as well. For me, that was part of it writing about these joys, and all the other complexities that come with being in relationships and being women.

ASTRID: What does your Mum or any other member of your family, what do they think?

SARA: Not yet, I think it's probably going to take a while for them to process. I also think that because they're not currently here, I really wanted to be there in person when they read it. I want to have conversations about it and like dissect it together. I didn't just want to be like, ‘Here Mum, you're on your own. Just read this and tell me what you think’.  I think it's going to need to work a little bit differently to that, and I think we're going to need to do it as a group activity, to unpack and process all of it.

ASTRID: That almost sounds like a teacher, a group activity.

SARA: It's not that, it's just that I think, in a way, my Mum, you know, she held my hand through a lot of things and she's held my hand through this. And I want to return the favor and hold her hand, because it might be a little bit confronting, and I think that that's okay. But I want to do it in a way that is coming from care and compassion, and allow that space for her to process.

ASTRID: This is a podcast, so no one can see your face right now, Sarah, but for the record, when I asked that question you looked excited and full of love, your face changed, it was lovely.

SARA: A very goofy expression, yes. I didn't let my partner or my sister or other people close to me read it, because I think part of that was also a little bit of fear. Because honestly, if I'm trying to impress anyone, it's going to be my partner and my sister, they matter most to me, and their views matter most to me as well. I'm a little bit anxious about that. I didn't want – because they obviously have their own baggage with this stuff – I wanted to have that conversation, almost an autopsy of this afterwards, not during.

ASTRID: We can find a less depressing word there. No autopsy needed, this is a lovely, wonderful book to read. But that does beg the question, who were your first readers? And how did you work on your craft?

SARA: My first readers started with, of course, the editors of the collection Racism, because this chapter was the chapter that we've referred to, that was first published. Dr Michael Mohammed Ahmad was my first reader and the one of the first people I had the conversation with around changing the premise of that novel, the spec-fic genre to this, and working towards a bigger novel. And then of course, my publishers as well. So, there were a few conversations, but I think for me, once I realized that this is what I needed to do, I was convinced – and I don't think like, respectfully, I don't think anyone was going to change my mind otherwise, and I think they were, they were on board anyway – but they could see when you write something and you're passionate about it, but also the writing is good to them, because obviously published it, then they're going allow you to run with that because at the end of the day, it's good writing. And it's a pertinent topic, it's something that I care about.

I think I've been very lucky in that I've had a very supportive publisher. The team, the whole team at Affirm has been very supportive of this book. The themes aren't necessarily very common in our literary landscape. Whilst there is a shift, and there is a growing body of work on Palestine, for example, globally, I think in the Australian literary landscape that's not the case as much. So being able to write about this, which is challenging, is complex, to say the least, but also straightforward. But it does come with a certain amount of, let's say, risk, for lack of a better term, being able to explore this and have really honest and good conversations with the publishers. I think, credit to them to be able to do that and to say this is the path we want to go down and we'll support you. But at the same time, this isn't, you know, a book of essays, it's not an opinion piece in a newspaper or online. And so, the most powerful thing you can do for the story, particularly for Jamilah, is to stick to the basics of writing, that would be show don't tell, etc. Because I am as someone who wears multiple, I always joke hijabs, and balance these different roles, it's sometimes it can be a bit difficult, you don't want to lecture preach ever, and that's definitely not what I'm about, even in my activism, but sometimes it can be frustrating. And you're just like, I don't want to convince you, like how do you not see that this is an issue? This is an anti-colonial struggle, and, and all these things and so, sometimes it's that frustration that seeps its way into bits and pieces. But then having conversations with the editors and realizing okay, this can probably be a lot more powerful if you just actually show it and describe the characters and how they're feeling instead of a commentary on the factual scenario or event of the night, because some of the events that I chose to depict in the novel are harrowing, and are based on real events as well. They may have been condensed for the timeline or changed a little bit, but ultimately, the essence is there. That was also confronting for me, like, I'm still writing it. I still have to imagine it or imagine their responses and their experiences in relation to it. But that was also like, I have to think about how I was feeling with that as well, and how best to do that.

ASTRID: There is so much in there, I'm not sure if I'm going to adequately interrogate everything in this area. But I am going to try going back to a few minutes ago, you mentioned the word risk, and that was in relation to discussions with your publisher and like a commentary on Australian literature, and how it hasn't changed sufficiently. What did you mean by risk?

SARA: I think, first and foremost, for me, the risk is that there will be backlash, as with almost anything remotely Palestinian. I mean, my experience in the past has been you just breathe and that's a provocation. You're just exist as a Palestinian, and that's not an exaggeration. I mean, there's plenty of accounts and evidence towards that fact. And so, I understand that there may be, well, there should be, in order to navigate that, there should be an investigation or a scoping of what the potential risks are, and how a how best to we create this work in a way that does it justice, and does justice to the craft first and foremost. But I also think you cannot, as someone who is writing about these issues very straightforwardly, separate or make a distinction between craft and writing – and the writing has to be good, yes, no doubt – but also, we are writing about these issues that are personal, they're pertinent, and they inform a lot of who I am. And it's not just politically or literately – I don't know if that's word – but they don't just inform… they inform so much more.

I think for me it was about interrogating that and making sure that we had the spaces to have these appropriate conversations. Because as I said, my concern with Palestine is not just personal and not just literary, but it informs my literature obviously and my but my literature is not reduced to just that and so I think it's recognizing Palestine as a condition of injustice as normalizing this injustice, this pain, this degradation also really reveals the limits of language in the conversations we're having about Palestine in the mainstream narratives that have been, you know, going on for so long about it.

So, again, all of these things,… I wish I could give it to you in a soundbite. I wish I could explain it to you in one sentence, that would be so much sexier and so much neater. But like, that's the thing, it's not. If we are going to have space in our literary landscape, from publishing to all the other pieces, to have these conversations, we have to do it with a certain level of care, curiosity, compassion, and understanding that people who write this are not just repeating trauma after trauma. That is not what I'm doing. There is a lot of pain that comes with it. We need to be able to understand that, that's part of it, but also honor that and have space for being able to reflect on what is the joy of this writing and bigger themes that come through.

The final thing, I think… it would be remiss of me not to say when you are fighting against or you are subjected to, or experiencing this erasure, this constant erasure of the Palestinian narrative by particular people, bodies, lobbying bodies, and otherwise, who are constantly trying to rewrite the narrative and trying to erase you and what you have to say, I think the stakes then become so much higher. That is also a risk. Knowing that whether it's a speech that I've made or book that I'm writing or a story or poem, that is going to be subject to these very violent reactions. I think that needs to… we need to have more open and honest discussions about this, so that we're prepared and equipped, and we know how to respond if a response is necessary, and so we know how to look after the writers who are putting themselves on the line doing this as well. So yeah, it is a very big conversation.

And I shouldn't be at all speaking about this without also acknowledging and centering the fact that I'm doing this as someone who is on Stolen Land, complicit in the dispossession of First Nations People here, and that violence. We have to reconcile all these things, and that's the fact of the matter.

SARA: That was so eloquent. Sara, I would like to share with you my response as a 42-year-old Settler. Every single time you mentioned the phrase, or the event, Camp David, I had flashbacks to my university days, and I felt like this work would have been a better education for young Astrid, 20 years ago, than what I got in my Sydney University days. One day I can see this on the Year 11 and 12 reading lists, or you know, university reading lists, in different departments – Modern History, English, social studies (not that they call it that anymore). But it's exciting to see the world being written into Australian literature. And I think readers have an obligation to support writers!

SARA: Thank you so much for saying that. That is honestly the one of the highest forms of praise one could receive, second to my Mum and my sister, as we have already made clear, abundantly clear.

ASTRID: I do think it is important. I think we have an obligation, particularly in a world where book bans are becoming more prominent, it is something that we need to protect.

I also want to go back to what you mentioned, you are a writer on Stolen Land. There is one scene towards the end of this work where Jamilah is first told about the colonial violence of Australia's past. It is short, but it's very powerful. Can you speak to that?

SARA: Yes. When I write I am thinking about the messages I want to get across as well. Maybe not everyone writes that way, but I think about that, the responsibilities of a writer and what I'm bringing, how I'm coming to work, like my intention with each piece of work. And so ultimately, I can't separate who I am and the fact that I'm writing, as I said, on Stolen Land.

As someone who carries all these backgrounds as well, how to honor these multiplicities of identities, and also the privilege and the privileges and responsibilities and access that I have. So, in thinking about that, my first question was, I need to make clear that this is the case, and how do I manifest that in this book? But then I'm like, isn't that tokenistic? Do I just include a character just for the sake of saying, Oh, I've included it, I've done it, I've done the right thing? But isn't that also a quite tokenistic and almost has the reverse impact or effect? But also, from a literary or craft point of view, how are they moving the narrative along and what's happening here? I interrogated my intentions and the possible pathways I could take – I am very good at overthinking.

I did all those things and thought about it, and I realized, I might just reflect what has happened and a lot of migrant experiences that I have known or interacted with, in the sense that a lot of migrants come here, and we know that the ongoing colonial project that is happening here in Australia, or so-called Australia, the violence and the different ways it manifests, all of that is very much deliberately hidden from new migrants. In a way, we're almost told that you should be grateful for coming here, you should be thankful, you don't bite the hand that feeds you, that terrible ‘model migrant’ narrative that I would hope we are well and truly passed at this point. But I do understand that older generation of migrants who had a lot of trouble reconciling that or coming to a point where they realized this is actually a lie that we've been told, and this is the reality. I think that a lot of work has obviously been down, and rightly so, put into changing these narratives and us understanding, again, our role and our responsibilities around that.

I was thinking about the best way to do that in a novel. I thought, well, what happened is someone told me, I heard from someone explained it to me, but particularly as Palestinians, I think it's usually something that for us, we are – again, not to generalize, but automatically there will always be a Palestinian that I know who's going to you set your right – if we are fighting Colonialism there, we should definitely be fighting Colonialism here and drawing on the parallels of the struggle. And of course, there has been a massive shift on that front in the last two decades. I mean, that's what I can speak to. But I want to say that is 100 per cent thanks to the staunch activism of First Nations People and a long history of solidarity building between Indigenous communities here and Palestinians. But also more broadly than that, communities of color or communities of migrants who have come.

I think for me, the thing that I thought felt like the most honouring of that, and the way to best convey this, was to do it through that scene, and to let the character – true to the story, and true to her –uncover that and experience that in parallel as she is discovering her Palestinian identity, discovering that as well. We don't know what happens, but we know that now she she's aware of it, it’s her move.

ASTRID: Can you speak to the title, Songs for the Dead and the Living?

SARA: Two things. I didn't really… As someone who comes from this – I guess taking migration, and as a byproduct of all these events, in a sense – I didn't really have a lot of proper tangible heirlooms or things that I could inherit, I suppose, material things. I think part of that is, again, the history, but also when you move from place to place some people tend to have nothing, and some people hoard a lot, if you have the capacity to do it. But in any case, having very little except for art and song and story, those were what I call my inheritances. I was very lucky to grow up in a family where we were always celebrating these various manifestations of art and talking about them and carrying them and listening to them and watching them. I'm fluent and bilingual. And so, I think, very lucky to be able to call that my inheritance, or my heirloom, in a sense. And so that, for me, is the is the power of songs, the power of art, in testimony, in bearing witness, in creating and building on memory and heritage, again, particularly in the face of erasure because that's what a lot of Palestinians, particularly those who have survived the Nakba and their descendants, have. And there's the survival of it. And it's an ongoing event, surviving it is done through storytelling and memory. And that's how we continue to remember and continue to honor and resist. So that's the power of the art.

Then the second thing, I guess, I wanted to say was part of the book and the themes and the events that happen, there is a lot of ceremony and ritual, and that's an important part of the way that people connect, whether it's through weddings and deaths and funerals or births, these various big life events, as well as the little kind of mundane ones. For me, I really enjoyed – well, not enjoyed in like a positive sense – but it was interesting to write about these events and see how or interrogate how people who have very different circumstances have very different access celebrate these things or don't celebrate these things, versus how we might today. For example, someone who is undocumented is going to have a very different experience at a hospital, giving birth or going through a diagnosis, for example, that might be something that they're facing, they're going to have a very different time than someone who has access to all these things. I really wanted to parallel these events, how someone who is experiencing a war or conflict might still have a wedding because these things don't stop, people still find joy in between life and death. In this liminal space, they still have events, they still celebrate and love and all of that. I really wanted to be able to… I think that was part of the story. They do continue to do these things, that is part of their life even as a war is raging on in the background. So that was the inspiration.

ASTRID: I want to say again, congratulations on Songs for the Dead and the Living. Of course, I Googled you before we spoke today, and I found out the name or at least the working title of your forthcoming poetry collection. Are you able to tell us anything about that? Or do I need to wait and interview you again, in the future?

SARA: I'm excited about that, as well, because it's also something that I've been working on for a while, and it brings together a lot of the themes that we've discussed today, but obviously in poetic form around, you know, women, and how they live full polychromatic lives and have a lot going on, despite, again, all of these violences and ruptures that are occurring. I'm really excited about that. I think, you know, it really reflects to me the fact that our experiences and our stories and however they manifest are not homogenous, and there is no particular one way to be a Palestinian or to be an Arab or to be a Muslim, to be a poet or a prose writers, no one way, and so it's liberating to be able to release myself from that idea.

ASTRID: I am looking forward to it. Thank you so much for speaking to me today.

SARA: Thank you so much for having me on.