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You Can Be the Last Leaf: An Evening With Maya Abu Al-Hayyat!

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Please join the Arab-American Educational Foundation Center for Arab Studies on Wednesday, October 19 at 6:00 pm for “You Can Be the Last Leaf: An Evening with Maya Abu Al-Hayyat! This bi-lingual book reading and discussion will be held on Wednesday, October 19 at the Conrad Hilton Ballroom, Hilton University of Houston from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

You Can Be the Last Leaf presents the transcendent and timely US debut of Palestinian poet Maya Abu Al-Hayyat.

Translated from the Arabic and introduced by Fady Joudah, You Can Be the Last Leaf draws on two decades of work to present the transcendent and timely US debut of Palestinian poet Maya Abu Al-Hayyat.

Art. Garlic. Taxis. Sleepy soldiers at checkpoints. The smell of trash on a winter street, before “our wild rosebush, neglected / by the gate, / blooms.” Lovers who don’t return, the possibility that you yourself might not return. Making beds. Cleaning up vomit. Reading recipes.

In You Can Be the Last Leaf, these are the ordinary and profound—sometimes tragic, sometimes dreamy, sometimes almost frivolous—moments of life under Israeli colonial rule.

Here, private and public domains are inseparable. Desire, loss, and violence permeate the walls of the home, the borders of the mind. And yet that mind is full of its own fierce and funny voice, its own preoccupations and strangenesses. “It matters to me,” writes Abu Al-Hayyat, “what you’re thinking now / as you coerce your kids to sleep / in the middle of shelling”: whether it’s coming up with “plans / to solve the world’s problems,” plans that “eliminate longing from stories, remove exhaustion from groans,” or dreaming “of a war / that’s got no war in it,” or proclaiming that “I don’t believe in survival.”

In You Can Be the Last Leaf, Abu Al-Hayyat has created a richly textured portrait of Palestinian interiority—at once wry and romantic, worried and tenacious, and always singing itself.

Maya Abu Al-Hayyat is the author of four collections of poetry, four novels, including No One Knows His Blood Type (2013), and numerous children’s stories, including The Blue Pool of Questions (2017). Her work has appeared in A Bird Is Not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Poetry (2014). Maya is the editor of The Book of Ramallah: A City in Short Fiction (2021) and the director of Palestine Writing Workshop, an institution that seeks to encourage reading in Palestinian communities through creative writing projects and storytelling with children and teachers.

Hanan Awad is a Palestinian-American photo essayist, and guest host on Arab Voices Radio Talk Show, based in Houston. As a guest host for her special segment on Arab Voices Radio, Hanan has interviewed several important figures in the Palestinian community; arsists, activists, writers, and more. Hanan Awad is also the president and founder of the Olive Tree Project a 501© (3) that plants 1,000 olive trees in Palestine annually. Hanan’s photography has been exhibited around the world.

Maha Abdelwahab is a poet and a Literature and Creative Writing PhD candidate at the University of Houston specializing in Empire Studies. She received her MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon where she was the recipient of the Promising Scholar Award. Her work can be found in The Adroit Journal, Rusted Radishes, The Recluse and elsewhere. Her research interests include Arabic-to-English translation, colonial Egypt, and Arab-American diasporic literature exploring abolition, gender, liberation, geography, imperialism and neo imperialism.

Fady Joudah has published five collections of poems, most recently, Tethered to Stars (2021), translated several collections of poetry from the Arabic, including You Can Be the Last Leaf (2022), and is the co-editor and co-founder of the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize. He was a winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition in 2007 and has received the Arab American Book Award, a PEN award, a Banipal/Times Literary Supplement prize from the UK, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is an Editor-at-Large for Milkweed Editions. He lives in Houston, with his wife and kids, where he practices internal medicine.

Conrad Hilton Ballroom, Hilton University of Houston (4450 University Drive, Houston, TX 77204)

Fadi Kafeety