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Guest Feature: Joumana Altallal
The NBA is back in action for its 75th season (GO CELTICS)! Basketball is truly my favorite sport, with all of its beautiful movement, its off-court style, and, frankly, its drama.
For the basketball fans that read this newsletter, here are some cool stories to check out to start the season:
Kyle Lowry Is Having His Say, On and Off the Court - Jonathan Abrams, The New York Times
Jaylen Brown Won't Settle for Less - Michael Pina, GQ
While the NBA celebrates its 75th season, it’s still building in Africa - Martenzie Johnson, The Undefeated
The Wizards Are Hoping the Slow-and-Steady Approach Ends the Race for Bradley Beal - Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer
Kyrie Irving doesn’t have to shut up, but forgive us for hitting the mute button - Candace Buckner, The Washington Post
Kemba Walker is where he wanted to be — home with the Knicks — even if he’s not sure why he left the Celtics in the first place - Gary Washburn, The Boston Globe
Brandon Jennings on Giannis’ Rise, the 2021 Championship and Being a Part of History - Brandon Jennings, SLAM
Just a kid from Hawthorne: The high stakes of Russell Westbrook’s L.A. homecoming - Dan Woike, Los Angeles Times
How the WNBA is light years ahead of its male counterpart - Kylie Cheung, Salon
Is This the End of NBA Dynasties? - Howard Beck, Sports Illustrated
Okay friends, let’s get right into it. I am so excited to introduce this week’s guest feature: Joumana Altallal!
Joumana is an Iraqi-Lebanese writer, artist, and researcher who was born in Baghdad, and grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia. She received her MFA in poetry at the University of Michigan's Helen Zell Writers' Program. Her recent work has appeared in The Rumpus, Asian American Writers' Workshop, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry. She is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from Bread Loaf Environmental Writers' Conference, Napa Valley Writer's Conference, the Radius for Arab American Writers, and New City Arts. Her writing explores themes of desire, destruction, and the distortion of violence particularly in the Iraqi context. She is currently working on her first book.
Joumana is an incredible talent. I mean truly, you have to take the time to read some of her poetry and prose and see her beautiful command of the English language. It’s astounding. Joumana’s musical selections are equally reflective and meaningful, and it meant so much to have her come through to share her go-to songs:
1. What is your favorite song right now?
"Ne Me Quitte Pas-Ma Tfell" by Mike Massy. Like many other versions (including a brilliant one by Nina Simone in the 1960s), this is an adaptation of Belgian singer Jacque Brel's original “Ne Me Qitte Pas”. I've been so moved by the original song, but have found Mike Massy's accompanying Arabic lyrics equally devastating.
2. What’s your go-to song for all your feels?
TIN NIN's "Inta Mnih?" and "Law" by Mohammed Saeed are two songs that have carried a lot of emotional weight for me recently. I love the depth in both artists' voices and the range of emotions their lyrics elicit for me. These are prime driving-at-night-with-the-windows-down songs!
3. Name a song that reminds you of home.
This one is tough! My first impulse is to say Fairouz's "Nassam Alayna El Hawa," because this was the song my mom and I listened to on the plane during our first trip back to Lebanon after moving to the U.S. Faraj Suleiman's "Questions on My Mind" is another that gives me a very different, but homey feeling. The first time I listened to it, I became immediately nostalgic for a place I'd never been but whose stories felt so deeply familiar.
4. Name a song you know all the words to.
5. Name a song that gets you really hype and ready to go.
Big shout out to Joumana for joining and sharing her song selections! All of Joumana’s songs are included in this week’s playlist too, so be sure to take a listen. And please, be sure to check out Joumana’s work and follow her on Twitter!
What I’m Listening To
🎧 Flows by Middle Eastern, North African, & Diaspora Artists 🎧
Malouf Aloyoon - MarSimba
Byes2alouni - El Rass featuring Azul
Ana Min - Rima Yussef
Zahri - Tchiggy
Janoub Al Darb - Balqees
Mraite - Moustafa Max featuring Xoureldine
Te Amo - Jaylann
Stars Align - Majid Jordan featuring Drake
tic tic - Dua Saleh featuring Haleek Maul
Tameneni - Resha Costa featuring Samara Now
🎤 Vibes by Latinx & Hispanic Artists 🎤
Melao De Caña - Celia Cruz and La Sonora Matancera
Enfermo - Arcangel featuring Fariña, Tokischa, and Kiko el Crazy
Sukutubla - Lalo Ebratt featuring Maluma
Celos - Salma featuring Callejo and Gitana Kamp
Rosé - Mr. Salik
Sal de Lo Malo - Cimafunk
Unfollow - Duki featuring Justin Quiles and Bizarrap
Mi Problema - Chiquis
Tenerte De Nuevo - NEZZA featuring LATENIGHTJIGGY
vayu - Nicole Horts
🎼 Other Good Music 🎼
Coulda Been U - Haviah Mighty featuring Astrokidjay
Moth to a Flame - Swedish House Mafia featuring The Weeknd
Tell Me - Bobby Valentino
King Vaud - Lavaud
Rise - Safa Liron featuring Candy Dulfer
Genesis - Deyah
5X - Don Toliver
Tiptoeing - Hope Tala
Rooms on Fire - Stevie Nicks
More Love - Wale featuring Boyz II Men and Sauce of Backyard Band
What I’m Reading
🇱🇧 Lebanon 🇱🇧
What the Loss of Freedom Feels Like - Kim Ghattas, The Atlantic
In Lebanon, Hong Kong, and Afghanistan, a similar sense of loss—of liberal values, of hope—is overwhelming.
'We are losing a national treasure': desperate Lebanese cut ancient trees for heating - Sunniva Rose, The National
Hundreds of trees have been felled as few can afford fuel amid soaring inflation.
Lebanon's car culture questioned in crisis - Layal Abou Rahal, Agence France-Presse
By challenging Lebanon's national passion for automobile ownership, and driving growing numbers towards greener or more collective transport, the economic crisis is succeeding where everything else failed.
How greed fueled Lebanon’s deadly milk and medicine shortage - Tamara Qiblawi, CNN
“Lebanon’s financial crash was fueled by the greed of a commercial elite, and it is ordinary people like Haydar who are paying a high price — in her husband’s case, the ultimate price — for it.”
Lebanese abroad are preparing for battle in the upcoming parliamentary elections - Zeina Antonios, L’Orient Today
Many Lebanese expats wish to see the change that was initiated by the October 2019 popular uprising materialize in the 2022 elections.
🌍 Middle East, North Africa, & Diaspora 🌎
The Wave of Femicides in Kuwait - Nour Al-Mukhled, Fair Observer
The murder of women in Kuwait in so-called honor killings exposes a political system and a society that remains largely indifferent to gender-based violence.
Huge crowds march in Sudan in support of civilian rule - Yasir Abdullah and Mostafa Salem, CNN
Throngs of Sudanese protesters took to the streets on Thursday to voice their support for civilian rule within the country's power-sharing government.
A Syrian Seed Bank’s Fight to Survive - Helen Sullivan, The New Yorker
Scientists have raced to safeguard a newly precious resource: plants that can thrive in a changing climate.
Archaeology Turns Political to Benefit a Trio of Middle East Strongmen - Olivia Snaije, Newlines Magazine
How three Arab dictators shaped national identity and their own personality cults around their country’s cultural heritage.
Like Other Arab Americans In Politics, Boston's Essaibi George Faces Questions About Her Identity - Saraya Wintersmith, GBH News
Boston mayoral candidate Annissa Essaibi George, who counts herself as a person of color, has faced questions about her identity since she jumped into the historic field — then filled with candidates who were visibly not white.
🎶 Music, Arts, & Culture 🎶
’90s Sitcoms Shaped Me as an Immigrant Child. What if They Hadn’t? - Maya Salam, The New York Times
As a young girl, I emulated characters from shows like “Saved by the Bell” to act American. If only “Never Have I Ever” and“Ramy” had been around back then.
Exiled Syrian rapper, Amir Al-Muarri, to talk war trauma, censorship and musical political resistance following his latest record release.
Country music has a gender issue. Kacey Musgraves is the latest woman to be shut out. - Jennifer Gerson, The 19th
The singer's latest album, “Star-Crossed,” will not be eligible for a Best Country Album Grammy nomination — even as one of its tracks is a contender for Best Country Song.
Writing “Eleanor Rigby” - Paul McCartney, The New Yorker
How one of the Beatles’ greatest songs came to be.
Revealed: The Crypto Fans Who Secretly Paid $4 Million for Pharma Bro's Wu-Tang Album - Elias Leight, Rolling Stone
Wu-Tang Clan’s secret album “Once Upon A Time In Shaolin” — once owned by ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli and later seized by the U.S. government — was bought for $4 million in July. The owners chose to remain anonymous. Until now.
📚 Other Reads 📚
As Japan’s yakuza mob weakens, former gangsters struggle to find a role outside crime - Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Julia Mio Inuma, The Washington Post
“It doesn’t help that ex-yakuza members carry the symbols of their former life: Full-body tattoos and missing pinkies.”
Retro video game collectors have been around a long time, and while rare games have quietly sold at Ivy League tuition prices over the past couple of years, it was this summer when factory-sealed and graded vintage video games got wider notice as a craze for deep-pocketed investors.
The Internal Reckoning of Javier “Chicharito” Hernández - Mirin Fader, The Ringer
Throughout his life, Hernández has been known as one thing: a soccer player. But last year, that identifier stopped being enough. Here’s the story of how Hernández waded through doubt, grief, and isolation to find himself—and his game—anew.
Were the Recent Haiti Kidnappings Business, Politics—or Both? - Amy Wilentz, The Nation
Both the assassination of Jovenel Moïse and the recent kidnapping of the Christian missionaries should be seen as a kind of blowback—blowback that has exposed our deplorable and failed policy in Haiti.
Afghan Women Who Once Presided Over Abuse Cases Now Fear for Their Lives - David Zucchino, The New York Times
“A dark future is awaiting everyone in Afghanistan, especially female judges,” said Nabila, a former judge. Their plight is another example of the Taliban’s unraveling of gains made by women.