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Amanda Leigh Lichtenstein

Marjane Satrapi Talks Writing & Freedom

“The world can go to hell if you have at least one person to lean on.”  — Marjane Satrapi This past Friday, writer and filmmaker Marjane Satrapi spoke about her life to a room full of high school students at the First Methodist Church in downtown Chicago. As part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, Marjane [...]

Review: Curse of an Addict — Zanzibar

Curse of An Addict—Zanzibar Director: Lovinsa Kavuma UK/Uganda, 2014 It’s been a month since I was first introduced to Seif and I can’t get him out of mind. Seif was a heroin addict who lived in Stone Town, Zanzibar, and I ‘met’ him through a harrowing short documentary about his life called Curse of an [...]

Jesus for Jews — A Love Story

I got my first period when I was thirteen years old — on the morning of my Bat Mitzvah. I was feeling chosen.  There was no time to spare. My older sister Nina taught me how to insert a tampon, and off I went to get my hair braided at a salon located in a [...]

Changing Stories, Stories for Change

  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 [...]

Flying Paper: a film review

I recently watched a screening of the feature-length documentary film Flying Paper, directed by Nitin Sawhney and Roger Hill, at the Downtown Islamic Center in Chicago. Today I’m thinking about people around the world trapped in political nightmares and ideological wars waged beyond anyone’s reach. I’m also thinking about what the arts can do to [...]

How to break up with an island

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 [...]

One [billion] rising, Zanzibar

Violence against girls and women is the world’s most disturbing open secret.  One out of three women in the world will be raped or beaten in her lifetime.  Many girls’ first sexual experiences are unwanted. She was raped by someone she knew. He beat me, but I love him. Story after story of violence against [...]

Speaking truth to power

When we listen to our favorite musicians, click on a Youtube video, share a link, float on a sound cloud from one good song to the next, we don’t usually think about what it took to make that song available to us. If we’re at all connected to the music world, we might sympathize with the woes [...]

PO KO MO — the (Swahili) grammar of being

Wherever I am/I am what is missing. – Mark Strand Uko wapi? Where are you? It’s how most conversations begin on mobile phones in Zanzibar. The question seems simple enough. But it unleashes a litany of other existential and crucial concerns beneath the surface: What’s your state and who is there with you? How far [...]

Suicide, local. Suicide, global. (And it was already too much).

Last month, a Zanzibari teenage girl jumped from the second floor of her school building to her death. It happened on a Thursday in the Hurumzi neighbourhood of Stone Town, Zanzibar. Some say she was the victim of mashetani — spirits – who had descended upon the school building, sparking mass hysteria on Tuesday and Wednesday, [...]

Confessions of an American freak out

I should have seen it coming – every time I fly from Zanzibar to the United States, a wild range of cravings start roaming my mind and body, eventually holding me hostage with desire. Thoughts of various kinds of cheese keep me up at night. I spend my afternoons on Google researching varieties of maple [...]

When is the last time you remembered a dream? Saw images in your mind as palpable points of light, saw roadmaps and systems, heard the word of god? I barely remember my dreams let alone follow any distinguishable directions given by friends, presidents, or gods there within. I find it nearly impossible to remember my [...]