19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East

19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East

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by Naomi Shihab Nye

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Naomi Shihab Nye has been writing about the Middle East al of her life. Her father is Palestinian, her mother German-American, and her poetry is born of a childhood spent with a foot in both worlds, growing up in St. Louis, Jerusalem, and San Antonio. This volume collects for the first time in one place all of Naomi Shihab Nye's poems about the Middle East, about


Naomi Shihab Nye has been writing about the Middle East al of her life. Her father is Palestinian, her mother German-American, and her poetry is born of a childhood spent with a foot in both worlds, growing up in St. Louis, Jerusalem, and San Antonio. This volume collects for the first time in one place all of Naomi Shihab Nye's poems about the Middle East, about peace, about being an Arab-American in the United States. You will find familiar poems here, poems that Nye's readers have cherished for years, as well as new poems being published for the first time. Nourishing, haunting, and hopeful—here is a timeless and necessary book. Includes and introduction by the poet and a frontispiece by photographer Michael Nye.
About the Author:Naomi Shihab Nye has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, the I. B. Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, and four Pushcart Prizes, as well as numerous honors for her books for younger readers, including tow Jane Addams Children's Book Awards. She is the editor of the poetry anthologies The Space Between Our Footsteps, Poems & Paintings from the Middle East, What Have You Lost?, and This Same Sky and the author of Habibi, a novel, as well as the picture book Sitti's Secrets. Naomi Shihab Nye lives in San Antonio, TX.

Editorial Reviews

Finalist for the 2002 National Book Award, Young People's Literature

Award-winning poet Naomi Shihab Nye has brought together a collection of her poems about the Middle East, shedding powerful, tender light on a region filled with rich history and much turmoil. Nye, who is of Middle Eastern descent herself, speaks from the heart, capturing an entire culture in strong images -- especially in "Biography of an Armenian Schoolgirl," "Rock," and the poem that gives the anthology its title. Both remarkable and enlightening, this collection of poetry will help foster understanding in young and old alike for an area of the world most of us know only through nightly news broadcasts.

Kathleen Odean
This elegant poetry collection evokes the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the Middle East, especially Jerusalem, as experienced by a Palestinian-American. The sixty poems reflect the strength Nye derives from her father's family and the pain she feels reading "deeply sorrowful headlines" concerning Arabs. With so few books for teens by Arab-Americans, this moving collection is all the more important for those beginning to understand and appreciate Arab culture.
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.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Nye's latest collection of poetry appropriately deals with Arab Americans and the Middle East. Several poems in this new collection have been published before, but those about the Middle East appear for the first time together in one volume. In a heartfelt introduction, Nye relates her emotions about the tragic terrorist events of September 11, 2001, and how they prompted her to turn to a familiar source for solace—poetry. These poems show what life is like for Arab Americans who are tied to two very different worlds. Caught painfully between these two worlds, they feel the horror and sadness over the terrorist acts yet are aware of the many innocent Arabs who have become victims as well. Nye's introduction and her poetry clearly reflect this pain. In "Ducks," the narrator compares her position between two countries to three ducks living together in her pond, but not getting along very well. The poet sees herself as the female duck trying to survive in the pond with two warring companions. In "Blood," Nye speaks of her father, who like the poet, belongs to two countries but can wave the flag of neither in the conflict between Palestine and the U.S.-backed Israel. Like most of Nye's books, this latest work is a worthy addition to any library. This collection can help teens understand a different point of view and a culture with which most teens are not familiar, while helping to ease the lingering pain still felt months after lives changed on September 11. This book can be enjoyed by the individual reader or used effectively in a classroom setting. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; JuniorHigh, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Greenwillow, 160p,
— Jennifer Rice
Children's Literature
In between the silly poetry of childhood (Mother Goose, Shel Silverstein) and the swirling, metaphoric, sometimes pretentious poetry of adulthood is the gray area of adolescence, when much of the reading done is required for school, and poetry is rarely touched. Many teachers often ask, "How can we make poetry a relevant medium for teenagers?" Naomi Shihab Nye may have the answer with her book of poetry from the Middle East. Teenagers are more interested in current events now than they have been since the Gulf War. This is poetry they can be interested in. The book starts with a tribute poem and an intro concerning the events of September 11. The Gulf War is mentioned explicitly once. The rest of the poems (60 in all) deal with the humanity of Arabs and their daily joys and struggles, so a new generation of readers can learn to appreciate this rich and ancient culture from a new perspective. Nye's words will always be slightly ahead of a teenage reader, but the reader will never feel left behind. These are excellent poems to start an even-handed dialogue on the daily struggle in Israel/Palestine.
—Carey Ahr
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.
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+)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.65(d)
910L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 9 Years

Read an Excerpt


A man letters the sign for his grocery in Arabic and English.
Paint dried more quickly in English.
The thick swoops and curls of Arabic letters stay moist
and glistening til tomorrow when the children show up
jingling their dimes.

They have learned the currency of the New World,
carrying wishes for gum and candies shaped like fish.
They float through the streets, diving deep to the bottom,
nosing rich layers of crusted shell.

One of these children will tell a story that keeps her people
alive. We don't know yet which one she is.
Girl in the red sweater dangling a book bag,
sister with eyes pinned to the barrel of pumpkin seeds.
They are lettering the sidewalk with their steps.

They are separate and together and a little bit late.
Carrying a creased note, "Don't forget."
Who wrote it? They've already forgotten.
A purple fish sticks to the back of the throat.
Their long laughs are boats they will ride and ride,
making the shadows that cross each other's smiles.

—Naomi Shihab Nye

Meet the Author

Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and anthologist and the acclaimed author of Habibi: A Novel and Sitti's Secrets, a picture book, which was based on her own experiences visiting her beloved Sitti in Palestine. Her book 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East was a finalist for the National Book Award. She has taught writing and worked in schools all over the world, including in Muscat, Oman. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.

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5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
MickyTang More than 1 year ago
The Poetry of Nye: 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East I loved this book of poems. It read like a very reflective piece of work and though it is many poems combined in one book, it could have easily been one long poem of glimpses of the Middle East. I believe that Nye’s point here is for us to see pictures of everyday people trying to live “normal” lives amidst a constant threat of war. Nye shows objects and rituals close to these people’s hearts—things that connect them to their land and to their identity: a “sprig of mint” in their tea, olives, grapes, figs, goat cheese, and fabrics that they love. These things are particular to their culture, but in other ways, these people are just like the rest of us: just ordinary people trying to love their families and raise their children. It is sooo sad that here in America, we see the extreme fundamentalist when we picture an Arab person in our head; it would be good for us to see the normal, everyday Arab human, trying to live his/her life and trying to love his/her family and his/her land.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first book of Nye's poetry I read, but it won't be my last. Her poetry gives us insights to another side of the challanges of the Middle East conflicts. She is a woman who has ties to both the Middle East 'through her refugee father' and America 'through her mother' and this gives her the ability to feel for both. I highly recommend her poetry.