Hello, hi, hello to all of you who clicked ‘subscribe’ when I asked you to. Thank you.
I hope you’re all doing okay! These are truly bonkers times. I’ve been in self-isolation by myself for just over a month now, since I got back to London from LA, and I’m starting to adjust, a little. I have moments of peace, of forgetting, before bouts of immense grief for… well, everyone.
As a journalist and a commentator, I’ve been trying to look at everything from a place of curiosity. As always, through that lens, the world is a beautiful, innovative, hopeful place.
Nora Ephron’s mother is often quoted as having told her: “Everything is copy.”
It’s good advice for a writer, for a human, and it’s a saying that brings me comfort. “My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day, have the potential to be comic stories the next,” Ephron explained.
It’s true. Looking at the world in that way, looking at experiences and feelings and thoughts and etc as something to write about, as stories to tell, ones that can connect, and embolden, is cathartic for both the person telling, and the person listening.
It’s how I got into writing, actually, into telling stories. It was a way to explain things to myself, some semblance of constant amongst all the moving across countries. It was also a way to make friends and connect with people. And a way to make myself and others laugh, to make light of some shitty situations.
On holiday and spending time with my friends in Egypt, I would often spend hours regaling them of all the ways I was getting bullied at school in London, of all the crazy insane things that, outside of this retelling, were bringing me to tears every day. It didn’t seem so bad, when I was telling the story.
That’s the power, I think, of taking ownership of your own narrative, of being yourself. It frees you up to do, be more of that, and it frees up all those who see it, too. Indeed, stories have the rare ability to arouse empathy, to make us all feel more seen and more important, and every story is valid, and worthy.
I knew, already. Had been practicing for it, inching towards it, but writing my debut, bestselling book The Greater Freedom, cemented it, for me.
In the 6 months since TGF was released, I’ve received hundreds of messages from other Middle Eastern women, as well as people from a variety of different ethnicities, who have resonated with the various themes addressed in the book. Topics like feeling caught between cultures, pressures to marry, and the many, many expectations placed on women to look, be, speak, behave and love in a certain way.
Many have been keen to share their stories, keen to highlight their own experiences; the many ways in which we are different and yet the same. It reminded me just how cathartic sharing can be, as well as the power of honest storytelling, and the dialogue that can then ensue.
And that’s what brings us here.
What is The Greater Conversation?
In an effort to continue and facilitate this much needed dialogue and to bring this community online in a tangible way, The Greater Conversation is a newsletter and online community centering Middle Eastern women’s experiences with a mission to connect and embolden through storytelling.
Every week, I’ll be opening the conversation by discussing a theme around being a MENA woman in the world. A fellow Middle Eastern woman – you guys! – will then – either anonymously or not – share their experience or thoughts on the matter in a guest piece running a few hundred words.
I’ll be giving prompts but if there’s anything bursting to get out of you, or if you’d like to write something then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also expect Q&A’s with interesting women who have different perspectives, as well as curated lists of articles, podcasts, books and other recommendations.
In the coming weeks, I’ll also be sending out a link to join a community group, where we can all meet to share and discuss.
Through the stories told, discussions we have and the community we build together, my hope is that we all feel more understood and less alone, and thus emboldened.
Who am I?
I’m Alya Mooro and I’m an Egyptian born, London raised freelance journalist and the author of the bestselling The Greater Freedom: Life as a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the Stereotypes. I’ve written for publications including The Telegraph, The Washington Post, Refinery29 and more, and I’m also a columnist at Restless Magazine. I have a BA in Sociology and Psychology and a Masters in Journalism.
You can order The Greater Freedom here.
Please do feel free to send me your feedback and suggestions for what you would like to see in this space.
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