DOHA, QATAR – A book launch at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar showcased the creative possibilities for expressing oneself and one’s experiences through writing – in a language other than his native tongue. The launch was attended by His Excellency Dr. Hamad Al-Kuwari, Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage of the State of Qatar; His Excellency Sheikh Faisal bin Qassim Al Thani, Chairman of Qatari Businessmen Association; and Her Excellency Noor Abdullah Al Malki, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs. Robert T. Monroe, Ph.D., Associate Dean, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, welcomed the audience and expressed his appreciation at the collection of essays saying the book “captured the good work of the students.”
“The Writer’s Craft: Teaching Creative Writing in Qatar”, edited by Amal Al Malki, Ph.D., assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, is a book based on a collection of essays written by students of Al Malki’s creative writing course. She had adapted a course she taught in the United States for her Arab students in Qatar. “The course was designed to help students understand the power of written expression – in any language,” said Al Malki. “I wanted the students to experience writing as an extension of their own voice. They were encouraged to acquire both comfort and competence in a variety of English genres – but, not really to mimic the English of a native speaker.”
Adopted by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage and published in recognition of Doha as the 2010 Arab Capital City of Culture, the book explores Arab themes and experiences, conveying pride in the writers’ Arab culture.
“This book launch would not have been possible without the support of Dr. Hamad Al Kuwari,” acknowledged Al Malki. “Dr. Al Kuwari embraced the manuscript once he knew that the stories would be written by young men and woman in Qatar.”
The book is organized in four sequenced sections, aimed at building a world of experience for the readers: self-portrait, observer portrait, scenic writing and narrative history. The sections are based on assignments from Al Malki’s course, each challenging the students to express themselves, their thoughts and their heritage through words to engage readers and communicate with them. “Narrative History” papers with titles such as History Repeats Itself, The Dark Year in Qatar’s History, and I must Survive recall situations and relay experiences that are conveyed vividly through oral expression, and that readers will be able to relate to.
The book reveals different voices of self-expression, using written English as a hybrid language reflecting a multi-lingual environment, rather than English imposed by US or British standards.
Al Malki explained. “Many students in Education City had grandparents who were illiterate, and have parents who are literate primarily in Arabic. The students find themselves the first generation cultivating two languages, and two identities. They see the Arabic language as the language of family and religion, and English as their global self – the language in which they can relate their pride in their Arabic heritage to the world.” In this sense, English is a hybrid language – nurturing experiences from different cultures.
“I hope that this book will encourage others to find their voices in any language,” said Al Malki.