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Exploring ‘Palestine’ with Najla Said

February 8, 2019

The Humankind series at West Shore Community College will continue with a performance exploring the relationship between identity and culture, as the college welcomes Palestinian playwright, actress and author Najla Said.

Said’s memoir, “Looking For Palestine: Growing up Confused in an Arab-American Family,” is one of three books being discussed during the 2018-19 Humankind series — along with Mohja Kahf’s “The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf” and Robert Worth’s “A Rage for Order” — and the author will treat audiences to a performance of ‘Palestine,’ the one-woman off-Broadway play that informed the memoir.

The performance is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14 at the Hart Public Schools Auditorium, 308 W. Johnson St.

The Humankind series — now in its second year — seeks to explore the cultural, social and political parallels between the United States and other nations. This year, the series focuses on the Middle East.

Said is the daughter of a well-known scholar and founder of post-colonial academic studies, which is what drew organizers to her, according to Seán Henne, professor of English and education at WSCC.

Henne said he believes Said will bring a unique perspective to the series as she tells her own story of finding a balance between vastly different cultures.

“One of the reasons we’re fired up about her is that she’s the daughter of Edward Said, who was a major post-colonialist … but she’s not awestruck about her own father,” Henne said. “Her book is identity conflict. Her father was Palestinian, her mother’s Lebanese and she grew up in the Bronx … so it’s about how to be a Palestinian girl in a Jewish-American community.”

The memoir evolved from the stage story told in “Palestine.”

“She originally conceived of it as a one-woman play. She did a kind of memoir performance, and that turned into an off-Broadway show,” Henne said. “She went on tour with the show — with different schools and audiences — and found that students really responded to it.”

Henne said Said’s book and performance encourage the kind of reflection and examination about the similarities and differences between Middle Eastern and American culture that the Humankind series is trying to promote.

See The Scene in Thursday’s Ludington Daily News print or e-Edition for the full story.

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