The S.W.A.N.A. region has been through seismic shifts in the last ten years: infectious uprisings, dictators toppling in domino effect, borders fading in and out, countries turning to rubble and others burning, chaos and militarism, mass persecutions, massive refugee crises, forced evictions, forced migrations, and finally, finally, bats and corona.
These are the headlines. The rest of it is experiential, personal, and plays out in private. In other words, it’s the fine print. It is all the other internal forms of exile, belonging and disorientation, those tucked away in the in-between spaces, in memories that haunt us, in lonely rooms miles away from home, in our internal monologues, in the roads without bearings, in the uncertainty of airports, in the inadequacy of our luggage, and the enormity of our emotional baggage.
Letters & Liminality was born out of a curiosity. Epistolarity, being what it is, a specific form of address between a letter-writer and a letter-reader, presented an intriguing set-up. As meta-readers, we wanted access to this private information, to read over the shoulder of those confidantes. We were drawn to the letter’s ability to divulge intimate and particular experiences of displacement. We wanted to discover how the transnational nature of the letter can pin the experience of the in-between. We wanted to explore how the letter’s framework can form and inform worlds and structures otherwise collapsed.
I’d like to thank all the writers whose work is featured in this special series, Sana Tannoury-Karam, Hind Shoufani, Nur Turkmani, Sima Qunsol, Nawal Muradwij, Christian Yeo, Nada Akl, Fatima El Kalay, Sara Sannouh, Loulwa Soweid, Rand Khalil, and Laila Gamaleldin, for walking us through the private, publicly, and for sharing their experiences of place from out of place. Their pieces have taken us to museums in Berlin, hotel rooms in Tunis, benches in New York City, bars in Beirut, classrooms in Scotland, kitchens in Cairo, and even to outer space and underwater, all the while searching for elusive homes on a shape-shifting map. I hope their words remind you as they did me, that even though disorientation is a puzzling place, the space between losing and finding can be a place of magic.
Editor of Letters & Liminality series for Rusted Radishes
Mai Serhan is a writer and translator. Her writing has appeared in Anomaly, Oyster River Pages, Swamp, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Writers & Readers, and Oxford Magazine. She is a winner of the Lunch Ticket Twitter Poetry Contest and a recipient of the Emerging Writer Award from Wellstone Center in the Redwoods, California. Mai is currently pursuing her graduate studies in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford.