Analysis Of Claims By Lisa Suhair Majaj

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Lisa Suhair Majaj ‘s poem “Claims” fits into the same vein of writing as Hammad’s “Bag of Zaatar.” It, too, is a proud declaration by an Arab woman of her identity. It also uses food references to assert that identity of belonging. What differentiates Majaj’s poem, however, from Hammad’s is its ardent political message that very nearly approximates didacticism. “Claims” is a poem that confronts orientalism, racism and stereotyping headon. The first three stanzas of the poem focus on dispelling myths, paralleling the approach of the old world literature. “I am neither harem’s promise / nor desire’s fulfillment, ” Majaj writes, in response to the exotic representation of Arab women.97 “I am not a shapeless peasant / trailing children like flies;” begins the second stanza, which contests the notion of Arab primitivism and female oppression.98 “I am not a camel jockey, sand nigger, terrorist” Majaj declares in response to the insults launched at Arab Americans.99 In the space of a few stanzas, Majaj deconstructs the whole offensive profile of an Arab as it exists in popular American culture and media. Having established what an Arab is not, in the fourth stanza, Majaj begins her positive claims. The language she chooses for her cultural self-portrait is highly agrarian, shifting from the human to the natural world. “I am the laboring farmwife / whose cracked hands claim this soil” Majaj writes.100 (Eating homes thesis, 54) Before long, the images move to the sustaining foods

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