Back in the early 1990s, before internet had become a thing, I began searching worldwide for compelling stories of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish women, to create an anthology, Behind the Veil of Silence. I finished and began pitching the first version of the book during the same period, but found that the world was not ready for our voices. Literary agents and publishing companies – including those for women, Jews, and people of color – alternately told me that we needed men, Ashkenazim (Central and Eastern European Jews), or non-Jewish women of color in the book, with the implication that without those additions, the book had no value or relevance.
I could have wallpapered my apartment with the avalanche of rejection letters I received.
Then 9-11 happened. Out of nowhere, there was an onslaught of books about North African and Middle Eastern women, and the veil was ubiquitous – “behind the veil,” “inside the veil,” “beyond the veil,” “my dog is wearing a veil” (OK I made that last one up). Seven top literary agents clamored to represent my once-languishing book; a stellar publishing company that had rejected the book five years prior suddenly, and enthusiastically, wanted to publish it; and because the once-original title of my book had become commonplace, I had to change it.
Meanwhile, a decade had gone by, and I was exhausted from the incessant work on the book. Honestly, I would have given up many years prior, had I not promised all the women in the collection that I was going to publish their stories. Which all goes to say, by the time the book went to press, I wanted nothing to do with it anymore. My feeling was, Get. This. Thing. Off. My. Desk. So I did a nominal three-city book tour – in a wheelchair, to boot (see story in The Washington Post) – and called it a day.
I don’t think I even looked at the book again for another decade.
But in recent years – as the world has changed, as I have changed, and as technology has changed, and as I have begun cataloguing all my work from the past three decades – I decided to breathe new life into the anthology, by creating a digital version with new content, along with an audio book companion. This audio recording gift is the introduction to the book – which not only gets you ready for the essays in the anthology, but also helps you put together the pieces of who the Jewish people are, where we come from, and how we relate to other peoples and nationalities. And given all the wiggly s*** going on in the world today, it seems like something a lot of people need to hear.
So share it widely, spread the love, and if you find value in my work, check out the KHAZZOOM online store, where you’ll find my albums, books including The Flying Camel, and swag like my band’s t-shirts, masks, and tote bags. Hot tip: All my books, including The Flying Camel, are currently 20% off to the general public and 40% off for Patreon members!
Speaking of Patreon members, you can support the evolution of my work, by becoming a Patreon member. You’ll receive an abundance of original and unpublished poetry, spoken word, and music that’s exclusive to my Patreon members, along with exclusive early access to all my releases, discounts on all my digital products, and even a free gift of my Kitchen Pirates video series! (Find out more at ImAKitchenPirate.com)
Now…enjoy the story! Loolwa