Analysis Of The Poem 'Mama Sweet Baklava'

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Abu-Jaber’s attitude towards dieting is a form of resistance. She refuses to change her eating habits in order to squeeze into a smaller clothing size. Not only does Abu-Jaber reject the unhealthy mental and physical effects of constant dieting but also an American model of beauty and acceptability in women. This model keeps women small and hungry. In contrast, Abu-Jaber and her “immigrant kid friends” espouse a view in which women are not afraid to be large and full. Hammad similarly rejects the Western model of womanhood as petite and calorie-conscious. For her, the ideal woman is like baklava--layered, sweet, nourishing—as spelled out in her poem “mama sweet baklava.” Comparing a woman to this rich treat is immediately a departure from an American model. As quickly seen, exercise and dieting are in no way a part of this portrait. Instead, Hammad focuses on “mama’s ” strength: “she is baklava / back bone strong foundation,”118 “her center / pistachio walnut crushed / years of rough pounded heart”119 These lines quickly dismiss the American dieting model, stressing instead the importance of fortitude in women, especially for Arab and Arab American women. In fact, much of Hammad’s poem is political narrative where “mama” resists oppression through direct (political activism) and indirect (domestic labor) means. As a mother, she feeds and sustains her family—literally and figuratively. In the metaphor of baklava, she is handed out to guests and to her children as a gift of

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