War and Body Image: Guernica and Arab American LiteratureJune 3, 2011
When my friend and author Randa Jarrar asked me for a short story for a collection she was editing for Guernica, I wrote “Girls on Ice.” Those were the people talking in my head at the time. Some form of them is always talking in my head because they are in part who I once was and who I see so many teenagers as today. You can’t be Arab or Arab American and female and not have had severe body image anxiety shoved down your throat (as a teen in Beirut, my thoughts weren’t of the war but rather of wanting to be a respectable young woman, i.e. not fat–whereas as the friends I’d left back in Minnesota took fat as an annoyance, not a tragedy). War was just an inevitable, uncontrollable part of life, and sadly still is, but beauty can be controlled, just ask any woman in the Middle East. Perhaps we wage war on our bodies to shut out the wars we find ourselves powerless to control. But when you come to America, you have to be concerned with achieving beyond the bathroom mirror. Just ask the characters in these stories.