Changing Stories, Stories for Change

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein April 7, 2014

  We know a good story can change us. But can our stories really change society? Writers, poets, journalists, arts educators, and cultural activists based in and around Dar es Salaam, Tanzania convened on Saturday March 8 at Soma Book Cafe to explore the link between art and social change in a one-day workshop organized […]

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How to break up with an island

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein October 6, 2013
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Step #1 — Unfairly blame all your unhappiness on the island. And then realize the island is YOU. Many of us spent our days trying to explain the inexplicable of Zanzibar. A vortex, a magnet, a spell. It’s the tiny island with an epic history, whose trade winds speak the language of spirits. It’s a […]

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A final tribute, in my words, to Hillman Curtis

by David Alm April 25, 2012

Here is a truth about ghostwriting that I never knew until now: You can write about practically anything in the first-person — except death. One week ago today, an old friend died after fighting cancer for three and a half years. He was just 51 and had a wife, two young children, and countless friends […]

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Come for the cultural dissonance, stay for the chai: Ten ways to best make it through your study abroad days

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein January 23, 2012

If you went to a liberal arts college in the United States, it’s very likely that you turned twenty-one in a foreign (to you) city, trying to find yourself and meanwhile getting lost in a new language. I turned twenty-one in Nairobi, Kenya – and not the one we think of today, packed with coffee […]

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Running ecstatically towards nothing

by David Alm November 8, 2011

When the topic of running comes up, I have a favorite line I tell people: “I run because it gives me the illusion that I’m getting somewhere.” They usually laugh, and I laugh with them. Except it’s not entirely a joke. I’ve chronicled many grievances on these pixilated pages: academic, professional, technological. But I’ve been […]

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Holy troubadours! Stone Town’s Ramadhan street chants

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein August 10, 2011

August 1st was a kissless morning. My love, a Muslim, had decided to abstain from even the smallest smooch. It was the first day of Ramadhan. Twenty-nine more to go. I am a Jew living in Zanzibar, a predominately Muslim island. I accept that I have to figure out ways to get down with the […]

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Live from the sky: liminal notes and observations from Addis to D.C.

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein June 5, 2011

These notes have been written between countries — in that space beyond countries — where borders are only imagined and the world below looks like a pregnant map relieved of all its flatness. I’m writing in that mildly frantic but sleepy traveler’s space: counting backwards to determine local time, attempting to reconcile body with mind, and telling […]

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MANENO — a few words on the making of Stone Town’s monthly poetry reading series

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein May 21, 2011

Where were all the poets and writers in Zanzibar? Where were those wordsmiths hiding? Throughout my first year in Zanzibar, I may have been living inside the poem that is this island, but I’d stopped writing poetry, and I felt like the proverbial fish out of water. I’d defined myself as a poet and writer […]

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Oh. My. Osama. Oh. My. God(dafi).

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein May 6, 2011

Is it unpatriotic to say that Osama bin Laden had nice eyes? In the twenty-four rippling hours following reports of bin Laden’s death and burial at sea, I’m left scrolling through his public photo album online, staring at images of bin Laden as a young soldier in Afghanistan, a young revolutionary with hints of Che-spirit, […]

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Flies and Floods: a Jewish passover in Zanzibar

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein April 19, 2011

Mah Nishtana Halailah Hazeh? Why is this night different from all other nights? Maybe because I was celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover on the predominantly Muslim island of Zanzibar. As far as I can tell, I am the only Jew around, at least who’s willing to admit it. I myself have always grappled with […]

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Cash-sash and other culture jams: (No I’m not married, I don’t have a baby)

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein April 5, 2011

You heard me. No, I’m not married. No, I don’t have a baby. These are the two of the most potent culture-bombs I drop on unsuspecting Zanzibar citizens on a near-daily basis. The reaction hints at devastation for some, others are just confused. You’re thirty-five and you don’t have children? Never been married? In my […]

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With Owsley’s death, will the 1960s fade even further into oblivion?

by David Alm March 15, 2011

Throughout my childhood, in the early- to mid-1980s, LSD was considered bad news. We were sternly warned by teachers, parents, made-for-TV movies, and Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign never to try it. We were told that if we ever did, we’d likely do something fatally stupid — like attempt to fly out of a […]

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Alphabet power and orthographic ghosts: The short story of Swahili script

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein March 2, 2011

In Swahili, uhai means “life.” In Hebrew, it’s chai. In Arabic, it’s haiya. So there it is, life itself braided into three languages entangled with my own history as an American Jew strangely drawn to life in East Africa. I often explain my ability to speak Swahili as some wacky fallout of a liberal arts […]

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Navaratri: Nine divine nights and one attempt at learning a goddess dance

by Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein February 23, 2011

I lucked out, living in Hurumzi. I live right by a small, tucked away Hindu temple. As a Jewish-American woman living in a predominantly Muslim world, I’ve sometimes taken comfort in the “otherness” of Hinduism here, visiting the temple, barefoot, on my days off, just to enjoy the cavernous silence of its inner courtyard — […]

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