Hold It All


Category: Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine

Note to Cami on Reznikoff

I read Reznikoff in summer of 2010
As much as I could find

Used, at Amazon
By him, about him

I like his spare style
That was the year

I was generating a piece a day
For my project that later

Became Dear Layla
So he influenced me

Toward that spareness
Most chapters very short

To the point
Like the one on p. 123

Reading influences writing!



Arundhati Roy: The Right To Be Sentimental

Right around the time in spring 2012 I finished Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine for Nima Sheth on the occasion of her graduation from medical school, I came across a book of interviews with Arundhati Roy, and particularly appreciated the following:

I’m not here to tell stories that people want to hear. I’m not entering some popularity contest. I just say what I have to say, and the consequences are sometimes wonderful and sometimes not. But I’m not here to say what people want to hear. 61

Failure attracts my curiosity as a writer. Loss, grief, brokenness, failure, the ability to find happiness in the saddest things—these are the things that interest me. 75 Read the rest of this entry »

The Power of Hummus and Hospitality

My friend Lindsey Weston sent me this letter in November of last year.  I am happy to share it with you.

lindsey-w1 Read the rest of this entry »

A Key to Understanding the Table of Contents to “Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine” from Our Friend Fellini

Do you like stories in which nothing happens, too?
Well, in my film everything happens … OK?
I’m putting everything in … Even the Sailor doing a tap dance.

–8 1/2


Can’t Wait for the USPS by Rob Trousdale (The Joy is Reciprocal)

A Response to a Letter from 4514 Chouteau Avenue


How many times can one read the same 4 sentences?
14 and counting, I guess

Your lines on Chomsky’s fire for linguistics

Him, just diggin’ it
Finding pleasure in the wonders of being a scientist

Sparked a memory
An interview read in college

Chomsky, hunched over his computer, lamenting

I haven’t done enough
I haven’t done enough

Chomsky, the avatar for so many
Needing a reminder, himself
Needing to read those lines in This is the Truth Read the rest of this entry »

I Wrote It for You All

June 24, 2015


I gave you, yes, you, and no one else, a copy of my magnum opus three years and a month ago.

My novel is due out next week and I want to say something about the dedication page.

Well, I’ve already started by trying to connect you and Zeina. The page reads:

For Lubna Alam, Zeina Kiblawi, Layla Lavasani, and Anjali Oza
Who sparked the beginning
And for Magan Wiles
Who saw it through to the end Read the rest of this entry »

Safa and the Marine Face to Face in the Parking Lot (Ahimsa/2)

Dear Professor
You asked how things are going in grad school
Here’s today’s highlight—

Before going to class today
I stopped at Starbucks to get a latte
As I was walking back to my car
An SUV pulled up to me
A young man with a crew cut popped his head out the window
And said in a loud voice
‘I survived Fallujah
Only to come back home—‘
He stuck his arm out the window and pointed at me
His voice increasingly tense—
‘To see my country filled with terrorists like you!’

So what if he was probably a foot taller than me
And weighed 100 pounds more than me
I stopped and looked at him
And used that teaching you passed on:
‘Just like me, he wants to be happy
He doesn’t want to suffer’
I repeated that in my mind
As I looked at him for ten seconds
His jaw began to unclench
And before I turned to get into my car I said slowly
‘I hope you have a good day’


–from the novel, Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine

Feedback, August 2007

…I also mentioned to you something about accessibility: I said that when I read your more final version of The Book of Mev, I was surprised by how accessible the voice was. Yes, it did contain wild mind, junk-and-jewel excursions, but it was mainly stuff that anyone could get fairly easily. I was a bit surprised because some of your original writing on the subject in this book were more of the wild mind literary form.

It’s not that one (wild mind literary) is better than the other (accessibility). But they are different. Perhaps this is why Pat asked you “who is your audience?”  Perhaps this next book* will be less “accessible” than The Book of Mev was. But it strikes me that this stuff about accessibility versus wild mind really comes back to form. I think that once you found your form with The Book of Mev, the voice came with it.


*What became Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine

One of the Early Influences on “Dear Layla”



We could be like two people who inject themselves with truth serum and at long last have to tell it, the truth. I want to be able to say to myself, “I bled truth with her,” yes. That’s what I want. Be a knife for me, and I, I swear, will be a knife for you: sharp but compassionate, your word, not mine.

–David Grossman, Israeli novelist

A Proposal from Marilyn

Marilyn Vazquez
Dr. Chmiel
Western Culture
16 September 2016
Empathy Practicum

After considering what suffering concerns me most, I decided to center my Empathy Practicum on the struggles of the undocumented Hispanic and Latino population in the surrounding areas. I attended meetings for many clubs and organizations but the Latino Student Alliance (LSA) spoke to me personally because I am also undocumented. My practicum will focus on two key issues the undocumented population face: education and healthcare.
Read the rest of this entry »