I used to tell people, “I am an open book. Ask me anything.” HA! What a joke. Those who know me well, know that I am NOT an open book. I am a journal under lock and key. If you are fortunate to be in the ‘Traci Currie Secret Society’ you will also know that I come from an air-no-dirty-laundry sect. If you think I’m playing, talk to my parents and let’s see how much information you get out of them about who we really are. Your mind is whizzing around at this moment wondering, “Who is this woman?” Well, it’s no major secret. I am partially being silly. But it is my silliness that inspires who I enjoy being in certain arenas. The arena I choose to focus on is the artistic world. Who and what do I want to be when I am standing in front of people and am about to spit poetry or teach a class or demonstrate something artistic? I will respond by referring to An Unnecessary Woman written by Rabih Alameddine. I chose this example because it made me want to LET GO! BE FREE! LAUGH! Letting go of oneself lightens the load and allows inspiration to take flight from every direction. So here we go – let’s fly. I just recently finished listening to An Unnecessary Woman as an audiobook – one of the most enlightening ever! It’s about a 72-year old reclusive, divorced, book-loving fanatic who has translated 37 books in Arabic but has never published any of her translations. Aaliya, the protagonist, who is from Beirut and has lived through the Lebanese Civil War, makes it clear that she does not like people, can barely be in the presence of her own mother for long periods, and spends her time quoting philosophers – that’s of course when she is not translating books or being harassed by her neighbors she refers to as “The Witches.” I love this story! Why? Because Aaliya makes me laugh. She is sarcastic. Literally. She’s what many people would call an honest to goodness “smart ass.” It is this wit and sarcasm that makes me double over in laughter because the text is bold and so blatantly honest. She says the things I think many of us would like to say but instead keep our thoughts hidden in our minds and hearts. When she talks about her impotent ex-husband, you can’t help but laugh; when she talks about her energetic grand-niece who seems to talk at the oddest moments, you laugh even harder; when she talks about enjoying her own company because humans make her uncomfortable, you wonder about her existence and realize that she survives because she is surrounded by her first love – books. When I started this audiobook, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought she might be a recluse based on the synopsis I read, but I did not know that Alameddine’s brilliant unlayering of this woman would be so engulfing and full of humor. The most important thing for me to note is that half the inspiration is from the author. The other half is from Suzanne Toren’s narration. It is amazing what she does with her voice. For 10+ hours I sat in this imaginary classroom filled with beauty, aged wisdom, oral history, endless cynicism, and love. Unrequited love, might I add.
Alameddine showed me how to be free with words; and how to share one’s story with the hope that someone might be touched by an angel. Granted, consider the title An Unnecessary Woman. Aaliya is considered unnecessary. Unwanted. Expendable. Useless. But she is not. Her story is very necessary and quite important. She is the angel. Toren, the narrator, on the other hand, showed me that what one does with the content when shared orally, can make or break a story. She is a spoken word artist, in my humble opinion. She caught my eye. Or my ear. I wanted to sit in her classroom for hours and even ask questions about the protagonist’s “screaming mother” she referred to repeatedly or the endless collection of books that she spoke of so often. In other words, I wanted to inquire because she spoke in a way that drew me in. I fell in love with Aaliya! Is that possible to fall in love with a character? Of course it is! I even wondered for a moment if she would find me interesting and wish to be in my company even for one hour every other week. It can’t be “every week” – let’s not forget, she doesn’t like people, but I think she just might like ME. I was inspired by a character who talked of her disbelief in God; her disdain for most humans, including her family; and her ability to quote men and women I have never heard of but am slightly interested in researching. There may be differences between me and the character, but I was enchanted by her story, her honesty, her wit and the ability to inspire. This example made me think of the character’s choice to be both an open-and-shut book. She keeps to herself, yet she ironically shares her story. Granted, I know this is fiction, but I believe it is a story that is not far from someone’s truth. I suspect when you catch inspiration at the right time, it (inspiration, that is) opens up in whatever form bestowed, and it allows you to sit and imbibe everything it has to offer. Then, after you have been inspired, you get to decide whether or not you want to be the open book. Yes, I believe there is a right time and place for me to open myself up and give of myself freely so that I can inspire the way Alameddine, Toren, and Aaliya have inspired me. So I ask again, who do I want to be on whatever artistic stage I stand? I want to be inspirational. That’s it. What the audience does with the inspiration is their decision. ____________________________________________
About the Contributing Writers:
Traci Currie is a Communication and Visual Arts lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint, as well as a knit-crochet artist, writer, and spoken word performer. She has been a part of the art world for over 15 years as an art gallery board member; spoken word series organizer; performer, nationally and internationally; and published poet. She believes the PRC will help young women reach their highest potential. “This organization is about empowering women to take ownership of their lives, claim their identities and be the positive change they wish to see in the world they live.” Read her latest posts here.