What does it feel like to find a new homeland, when it is no longer possible to live in the place of one’s birth? Today we speak with two individuals who have channeled their experiences into their writing and art. Originally from Baghdad, Iraq, Kifah Abdulla is a former prisoner of war who writes, teaches, and creates art in Portland. Reza Jalali came here from Iran and is now an author and the coordinator of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs at the University of Southern Maine.
Reza Jalali is an author and the coordinator of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs at the University of Southern Maine. Jalali, who has lived in Maine since 1985, says he serves as a cultural broker, bridging the gap between the native-born Mainers and those who have arrived in recent years. He hopes his advocacy on behalf of new Mainers will help them feel recognized for their contributions and accepted in their new life in Maine. He co-authored the 2009 book New Mainers: Portraits of Our Immigrant Neighbors, which told stories of recent immigrants. He is also the author of The Poets and the Assassin, a play about women in Iran; Moon Watchers: Shirin’s Ramadan Miracle, a children’s book; and Homesick Mosque, a collection of short stories.
Kifah Abdulla is a poet, artist, writer, performer, teacher, activist, and world citizen. Born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, he spent over eight years as a prisoner of war in Iran. He published his first book of poetry, Dead Still Dream, in 2016, and he is preparing to publish his second book, Mountains Without Peaks. He reads his short stories and poetry accompanied by cello at many places in Maine. He exhibits his paintings in local galleries in Portland. He teaches Arabic and Arabic calligraphy as an art form at the Language Exchange, and this summer he will teach in Continuing Studies at MECA. Kifah Abdulla has built a home for himself in Maine, but his journey to the United States was not without personal sacrifice.