19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East
19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East
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Annotation: A collection of Nye's poems about the Middle East, about peace, and about being an Arab-American in the United States.
Catalog Number: #5524729
Format: Paperback
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition Date: 2002
Pages: 160
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-06-050404-8
ISBN 13: 978-0-06-050404-5
Dewey: 811
Language: English
ALA Booklist
A Palestinian American raised in St. Louis and Jerusalem, Nye is a writer and anthologist whose poetry, fiction, and essays speak to a wide audience. This small, timely collection brings together her poems about the Middle East and about being Arab American. In her introduction she says that poetry cherishes the small details that big disasters erase, and her simple, concrete words show those details and their connections among soldiers, children, cousins, everywhere. Sometimes the details go on too long, and her quiet nature images carry too much message. It's the drama of the present war that will most move young readers, and the best poems bring big and small together, personalizing the disasters, showing the effects on one child, the loss inside a home, the fragile facts of daily life (A brother and sister were playing with toys / when their room exploded). There's no rhetoric, no sentimentality. Like Israeli writer Amos Oz, Nye takes no sides; her call for peace is to Arabs and Jews (I'm not interested in / who suffered the most / I'm interested in / people getting over it). The first poem is dated September 11, 2001, and this book will spark discussion and bring readers up close to what war and vengeance mean to people like themselves.
Horn Book
As with much of Nye's writing, these sixty poems--half of which are new, half of which have been published in her collections for adults--aim in sum to present a balanced yet intimate view of both the Middle East and Arab Americans. Clear and haunting, Nye's poems are accessible to young adults, and the autobiographical element of her poetry makes them even more so.
Kirkus Reviews
In a collection as rich as the subject, Nye ( Come With Me , 2000, etc.) brings together all of her poems about the Middle East, old and new, familiar and unknown. Opening with a poem about a young man just released from prison on the morning of September 11th, she follows with a reflection on what that day has meant for everyone, especially for Arabs and Arab-Americans, who, through Nye, say: "This is not who we are." She follows with exquisitely nuanced images of fig trees, grandmothers, Palestinian children, the loss of "pleasant pauses," and "The Man Who Makes Brooms." Asking "How Long Peace Takes," Nye writes, "As long as the question—what if I / were you?—has two heads," and answers a border guard, "We will eat cabbage rolls, rice with sugar and milk, / crisply sizzled eggplant. When the olives come / sailing past / in their little boat, we will line them on our / plates / like punctuation. What do governments have to do / with such pleasure?" Poem after poem will elicit a gasp of surprise, a nod of the head, a pause to reflect. There are no false steps here—only a feeling of sensory overload and a need to take a deep breath and reread or to find someone to share the intensely felt emotion that springs from the lines. In her closing poem, a musing on what one should have said, she writes, "Say it / as if words count." With this gifted writer, they really do. (Poetry. 10+)
Publishers Weekly

Many of the poems, which focus on the Middle East and the Arab-American experience, have appeared in previous collections; others are published here for the first time. PW called this "an excellent way to invite exploration and discussion of events far away and their impact here at home." Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Nye is well known as an anthologist for children, but adults have enjoyed her poetry collections for years, and many of those selections, as well as new ones, are gathered here. In her introduction, she describes the effects of the events of September 11th on her and other Arab-Americans. An introductory poem is about that day in particular; otherwise, the selections are about her family, her visits to the Middle East, and her observations of events there in general. This offering is a celebration of her heritage, and a call for peace. In "Jerusalem," she says, "I'm not interested in who suffered the most. I'm interested in people getting over it," using her poetic voice to make her point clearly and powerfully. Other poems are more particular, using family members, or meetings with friends or strangers as the frames around which her image-rich world unfolds. "My Father and the Figtree": "For other fruits my father was indifferent. He'd point at the cherry trees and say, `See those? I wish they were figs.' In the evenings he sat by our beds weaving folktales like vivid little scarves. They always involved a figtree. Even when it didn't fit, he'd stick it in." Of particular use today, this is the kind of book that young and older readers of poetry will turn back to over and over.-Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Word Count: 14,957
Reading Level: 5.8
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.8 / points: 2.0 / quiz: 80002 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:7.1 / points:6.0 / quiz:Q32467
Lexile: 910L

"Tell me how to live so many lives at once ..."

Fowzi, who beats everyone at dominoes; Ibtisam, who wanted to be a doctor; Abu Mahmoud, who knows every eggplant and peach in his West Bank garden; mysterious Uncle Mohammed, who moved to the mountain; a girl in a red sweater dangling a book bag; children in velvet dresses who haunt the candy bowl at the party; Baba Kamalyari, age 71; Mr. Dajani and his swans; Sitti Khadra, who never lost her peace inside.

Maybe they have something to tell us.

Naomi Shihab Nye has been writing about being Arab-American, about Jerusalem, about the West Bank, about family all her life. These new and collected poems of the Middle East -- sixty in all -- appear together here for the first time.

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