You Should Apply to Hedgebrook!

By Hedgebrook Guest

Categories: Alum Experiences,

“How do you tame a wild tongue, train it to be quiet, how do you bridle and saddle it? How do you make it lie down?” (Gloria Anzaldúa)

“You should apply to Hedgebrook!” is one of the most rewarding suggestions that I have heard since my arrival to the United States from Palestine in Fall 2004. The first time I heard this magical phrase was in Spring 2006, when I attended the American Ethnic Studies conference in San Francisco. I was then in the process of moving from the University of Oregon to the University of Washington to pursue my PhD in Comparative Literature. While at the conference, I took advantage of the fact that numerous UW faculty members were attending, and I approached them to inquire personally about life and studies in Seattle. A middle-aged white woman from the audience was eavesdropping on a conversation that I was having with a UW professor. With a very warm welcome gesture that I came to learn later on was “not so typical of the Seattle Freeze,” the woman said: “Seattle is great. There is also Hedgebrook. You should apply!” When I asked about the nature of Hedgebrook, the white woman with the enthusiastic facial expression whom I never met again and whose name I had forgotten, answered: “It is another great reason to live in Seattle.” She further explained that it was a residence for women writers with special support for women of color. I thanked her for the recommendation and continued to converse with someone else in the circle inattentively. I kept looking at my skin with wonder: How did this white woman know that I wanted to be a writer? Did she detect a literary potential in me because she identified me as a woman of color? Does my olive skin and foreign accent qualify me as woman of color in the US? Do all women of color have stories to tell? More importantly, do women of color need special support? These questions imprinted a personal landmark in my thinking about race, ethnicity, nationality, gender and identity. They continue to inform my intellectual reflections on my position (or the ways in which I am being positioned) in the US racial climate as a Palestinian/Arab/Muslim woman.

In Spring 2009, I heard again: “You should apply to Hedgebrook!” It was a special night of poetry reading and spoken word performance at Seattle City Hall with three Hedgebrook alumnae: Suheir Hammad, Ruth Forman and Uchechi Kalu. All three identified as women of color. I sat there mesmerized by their politics, poetics, and the power of their untamed wild tongues. Then, a Palestinian male friend who was sitting next to me whispered into my right ear: “You have the potential, but you need an opportunity like them. You should apply to Hedgebrook!” I nodded in agreement without looking at my skin. I wrote the above two paragraphs in my application

In Fall 2010, I arrived at Hedgebrook Farm in Whidbey Island. I entered the farmhouse slightly nervous, disoriented, and hungry. I was going to stay for a month in a cabin on an island without a private shower, or Wi-Fi. Moreover, Ramadan had ten more days to go, and I needed to figure out how to eat Iftar alone after the communal early dinner. At the farmhouse, I run into two blond women who were sitting and conversing at the dining table. I introduced myself. One replied: “Hi, I’m Gloria.” I picked up my lunch/suhor basket and went back to my cabin. In the evening, I met Gloria again. She was at the same dining table surrounded by all the women writers in the residency. The conversation always went back to her, as if she was the undeclared oracle. A writer asked Gloria about her childhood, and as she shared some intimate information, I gathered that she was writing her memoir. After dessert, all the writers went back to their cabin. I was at my writing desk, when I run into Gloria for the third time. I was looking for a word in the dictionary. I write in my third language, English. I am also terrible at spelling. BAM!!! There she was, in a black and white picture, wrapped by a short bio, and a long entry. “Shit! This woman is in the dictionary!” I yelled in astonishment. The captions read: “Gloria Steinem.” Of course, I scolded myself for being too nonchalant around a celebrity like her. The following morning, I saw Gloria again. I tried to apologize: “I don’t want you to think that I am arrogant, rude or anything, but I really didn’t’ know who you are until late last night. I didn’t grow up in the US and none of the feminists that I grew up reading were blond!” Gloria was cool. She smiled generously, and continued to tell her story while refining her nails.

At Hedgebrook, I finished reading two books by Gloria and several other books by women of color. While browsing the library in the farmhouse, I was often preoccupied with two existential questions: On which shelf will my books be stored? What if readers passed by my books on the shelf and didn’t pick them up? These questions continue to haunt me.

After a month of a pure retreat at Hegebrook, I walked away with 50 pages, an overload of rejuvenating good sleep, confident feet that learned to not fear walking in the forest at night without a flashlight, and an archipelago perspective gained after daily silent walks by the Puget Sound waves and long afternoons spent by the nearby lagoon contemplating the peculiarity of minor spaces. I also left with a deep fondness for remote islands, my new refuge for writing and whimsical solitude. Sometimes, when I go there, I bring my voice with me. Sometimes, I find it there.

 

Learn more about the Writers in Residence program.

 

About the Author:

Amal Eqeiq- PhotoCredit-Ava AndersonAmal Eqeiq is a native Palestinian born in the city of Al-Taybeh in the Triangle. She is a writer, scholar, activist and occasional poet. She holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington. Currently, she is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at Williams College. She has published several short non-fiction essays and poetry translations. In addition to working on her first novel, Amal keeps a Facebook Blog titled: “Diaries of a Hedgehog Feminist.”

 

 


 

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Hedgebrook supports visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily representative of the opinions of Hedgebrook, its staff or board members.

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