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Hello from Tulsa! Ahmed and I are settling into our new apartment south of downtown, with a gorgeous view of the sunset over the Arkansas River. We also have — luxury of luxuries — a balcony, where we’re growing herbs and tomatoes. I’ve set my writing desk up to look out over the river. Much more inspiring (and less distracting) than the concrete canyons of NYC, at least for now.
Tulsa is unreasonably beautiful in spring, with many well-maintained running trails, parks, and open lawns full of flowering trees. There’s a surprising stateliness to Tulsa. The downtown is known for its art deco architecture, and it’s been revitalized lately by some forward-thinking investors who turned an inner city desert into a cool neighborhood of shops, restaurants, bars, museums, and the new Guthrie Green, a beautiful outdoor venue.
Last week we went there with a friend and her daughter to watch a simulcast of a symphonic performance in the park. Best of both worlds, really. How often do you get to watch a symphony in shorts and flip flops AND watch the sun set (and kids playing), all while drinking wine?
The road trip through Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee was a lot of fun. Our newly acquired car, a midnight blue 2005 Dodge Stratus named Jasmine, made it through beautifully, and we enjoyed no less than five home-cooked Palestinian feasts along the way. (I don’t do this work for the food, but it’s a nice perk!)
Most of the venues on this tour were churches and universities. The good news and the bad news is that most of the audiences were pretty savvy. Good because they do exist. Bad because, well, the people we need to reach most are apparently hard to reach. But it’s been incredibly heartening to meet such dedicated and knowledgeable groups literally all over the country. Everywhere you go, you can find them (a good percentage of them being Jewish), and it’s wonderful to feel myself a part of this community. And there are always a few people who come in just curious and leave with rather wide eyes (and usually a copy of the book).
Even better has been meeting with church leaders. There’s starting to be serious push-back against Christian Zionism, both as politics and as theology. I don’t think the younger generations are going to be so blinded by it.
A visit to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis underscored the challenges and rewards of being on the right side of history. It’s easy to forget how much people in our own country—supposedly a democracy—have had to work and suffer just to be afforded their most basic rights. While watching videos of African Americans being beaten for simply sitting at lunch counters, I couldn’t help but think: One day there will be a museum of Israel’s outrages against the Palestinians, and our children will have NO IDEA how anyone could have let something like that happen.
After we got back from the road trip, I caught a plane to Portland for a conference hosted by Sabeel, a Palestinian-led Christian peace and justice organization. The line-up was incredible and included Max Blumenthal, Miko Peled, Dr. Mads Gilbert, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Cindy and Craig Corrie, Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, Chris McGreal (one of my favorite journalists when I lived in Palestine), Phyllis Bennis, Mark Braverman, Josh Reubner, Rev. Don Wagner, Brian McLaren (a successful Christian author who speaks in the best tradition of Christianity, humbly and honestly seeking truth and peace for all), and many others.
It was truly an honor to be among them. I just wish we’d had more time together than two days!
Ahmed is making connections in the Oklahoma soccer world and will lead his first practice session for a team of twelve-year-olds this week. And I’m pretty excited about many months in a row with no major book tours — just good writing time.
We’ll see where soccer coaching and writing will take us in the next few years. Just trying to “follow our bliss” and hoping the universe will lay out a nice path for us.
Love and light and flowering trees,
P.S. My husband has also been trying his hand at graphic design. (He designed the first cover for my book, the one with the hookah girl.)
His latest project was to create a gorgeous high-quality World Cup bracket poster, with spaces to write in the scores and six sheets of 32 stickers with the flags of each team, so you can place them on the bracket as the tournament goes on. It’s a fun way to follow the games, and a great way to support an up-and-coming coach/graphic designer. 🙂