The University of Iowa invited 14 American students, 11 Russian students, and 11 students from Arabic-speaking countries to participate in a creative writing and cultural exchange program. Iowa City, Iowa is the only UNESCO city of literature in the United States–a small collegiate town where one can “throw a rock in any direction and hit a writer.”
The writing and photos that follow come from participants during the program. We come back together now to share + reflect!
You could see it in their eyes, fear, assumptions about me not for my actions but in fact for what I wrapped over my head.
Not about the statement I had on my shirt but rather the hair underneath my veil
They stare with their Atlantic blue eyes, blond hair and reddish plumb cheeks.
They smiled at each other and complimented one another, until I enter or pass by, silence will accompany their stares that make you feel the rusted grudge they hold for you.
My chest aches and every part left follows on.
A toddlers came to my seat wearing a blue jeans overall and a white tee, playing with his pacifier around his tiny pink mouth full of joy and innocence that is taken away along with humanity as we grow up.
Goggling at this rare creature he never seen before, or maybe did but never in a good way; his mom comes running grabs him away and throws a threatening look at me.
I thought the USA was all about diversity and acceptance but i turns out it’s the complete opposite on airplanes.
When you’re a Hijabi on a cross Atlantic flight you’re a suspect by the judgment of this society.
Excuse me, I thought Americans were different but the racism I have experienced during the flight was by far much worse than the one in Paris -that was nearly nonexistent- .
I had taken a nap for a few hours I woke up, my head scarf was not on my head anymore and I have no clue what happened during my heavy sleep.
South Pasadena, California
A pioneer leaps. An androgyne reaps.
I suckle ten different meanings from a handle.
I practice telepathy on the man across the street:
Are you worried about your opinions?
(Earhart probably wasn’t a nihilist,
but she walked up this porch too.)
Not because I care, but because holding onto
hatred is the new smoking.
In the summertime I forget how to strategically go to
All the oranges here are hard like lemons.
GOD IS A WRITER
A divine worrywart
Little details I cry about
Singing along with Pink Floyd
Trying to remain strong and bold
God is a writer
I am God
I write about what haunts me
Unfamiliar faces engraved on the apple’s tree
God is a writer
I have a godly writer in me
Telling me to kill people
Give them diseases
And curse the love that never ceases
Bad God, viciously omnipotent
Worshiped by words
I bless everything I do
Because I’m evil, yet I’m good
I create lives and destinies
I burn buildings in big cities
And still, I’m dwelling in heaven for eternity
On my throne, I sob along Remember Pink Floyd’s song?
That’s my mantra Sacred anthem
With wine and candles
It’s 3AM, I’m still at my desk
Productively complaining on paper
And God knows –I know-
That in my temple
I breathe life into my pieces
And watch them grow
Charlotte, North Carolina
I spent my whole life searching
for leather things,
vintage jackets, hardbound
journals, the bands of
but none of them came quite
close enough to what I was
the smell of my grandmother
was like leather,
the kind of scent that,
if you bottled it up
in a clear vial and silver stopper,
it would probably sell wonderfully
as men’s cologne, but to me,
it smelled like the greatest woman
I ever knew
I remember burying
my nose into this scent,
it felt like the warm linen
of her blouse and the stroke
of her knotted fingers in my hair,
I remember burying
my legs into this smell,
underneath covers, hands shaking,
I studied her handwriting
on shopping lists and
birthday cards and letters,
trying to remember, trying to
the fastest way
to make me remember how to
feel something is to
draw me to this smell,
like a cactus to water,
I absorb the memories
and hoard them somewhere
between stomach and ribcage,
I brown beneath suns
on the sands of Montego Bay
the scent of silence,
the moment I knew I could
not smell her anymore
Read more about the University of Iowa’s Between the Lines program here. Many thanks to the instructors + program staff + counselors for their worldly knowledge and unconditional love!