Author Archives

  • Lifting the Veil – #WontBeErased by Joyce Zonana

    Samhain is upon us. Halloween. The Day of the Dead. All Saints’ Day. All Souls’ Day. That liminal time of year when the doorways to what the Celts called the Otherworld, Annwn in Welsh, are open. In New York City, we have the 45th annual Village Halloween Parade, a queer extravaganza of puppetry, masquerade, and cross-dressing that draws some 60,000 participants and over 2 million onlookers. Elsewhere, we have children in costume and lawns covered with plastic skeletons and illuminated ghouls. Everywhere, if we’re lucky, we might catch a glimpse of  “the piper at the gates of dawn,” the vision granted Rat and Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows: “something very surprising and splendid and beautiful”—Pan the goat-god, boundary-crosser, Friend and Helper, trans-being.

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  • On Not Eating Gefilte Fish by Joyce Zonana

    What does it mean to be an Arab-Jew in the twenty-first century? For me, it means recognizing and honoring Arab culture: the music, food, language, and customs my parents brought with them when they emigrated from Cairo in 1952; it means feeling a strong bond with other Egyptians, North Africans, and Middle Easterners, refusing efforts in the U.S. and elsewhere to demonize and “other” any of us. It means respecting the claims of displaced Palestinians and protesting Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. It also means not seeking to equate our displacement with Palestinian displacement, as some Jews from Arab countries have sought to do, in a transparent effort to discredit Palestinian suffering.

  • Priestess at the Crossroads by Joyce Zonana

    In order to transform what is happening at the Mexico/U.S. “border” (and elsewhere) we must first break down the borders within our heads—all the borders in all our heads. Mr. Trump tells us “If you don’t have Borders, you don’t have a Country”; my response today is: “Who needs countries? Who needs genders? Who needs races or competing religions? What we need is Coatlicue.”

  • Bless This House: Creating Sacred Space Where You Live, Work & Travel by Mama Donna Henes – A Book Review by Joyce Zonana

    “There is no such thing as a bad blessing,” Mama Donna tell us, “no rules . . . no recipes, no prescriptions, no instruction manuals,” no “one-size-fits-all” House Blessing. Yet it’s not so much “anything goes” as “everything matters”: “The only thing you can do wrong in a ritual is to not pay attention to your true intentions.”

  • “The Burning Lava of a Song” by Joyce Zonana

    Aurora’s autobiographical narrative is a passionate paean to poets as the “only truth-tellers, now left to God”; she celebrates them as agents for personal and social transformation. As we come to the end of this National Poetry Month in the U.S., where truth is under siege, it’s worth recalling Aurora Leigh and its daring exploration of poetry, gender, divinity, and social justice.

  • A Dream Home by Joyce Zonana

    Forty years ago, I abandoned my own inner quest to establish myself as a writer/translator, discouraged by the voices of publishers who told me the book was unmarketable, worried about making a living and reassuring my family (whom I had broken from when I was seventeen) that I was “okay.” I chose the relatively safer path of becoming an English professor, and I worked for more than thirty years helping others to find their voices. I do not regret taking that path. It has led me here.

  • Esther’s Choice — And Ours by Joyce Zonana

    The Book of Esther tells a story in which women’s power is not so much repressed as asserted. The king who banishes one queen finds himself submitting to the will of another. Numerous women writers of various ethnic, religious, and racial backgrounds in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries have found inspiration in the stories of both Esther and Vashti’s disobedience to an autocratic king.

  • Letting Go by Joyce Zonana

    How many objects have I clung to, how many pasts have I tried to preserve–beginning, of course, with the first loss, of Egypt where I’d been born and where my family had flourished? How many habits, feelings, fears, and beliefs continue to constrain me? The new year approaches, and my resolution today is simple: to let go. Again and again and again. As often as it takes.

  • Sheep, Goats, and a Donkey Named Balthazar by Joyce Zonana

    A few days ago, at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY, I purchased a six-ounce skein of fine, reddish-pink mohair bouclé, directly from the woman who’d dyed it using the natural pigments cochineal and logwood. My… Read More ›

  • Notes from A Goddess Pilgrimage by Joyce Zonana

    The solar eclipse has had me sensing deep alignment with earth, sea, and sky, with my sisters and brothers and Self. This, then, from my 1995 journal of my first Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete with Carol Christ, a trip still… Read More ›

  • A Healing Home of Dreams by Joyce Zonana

    I had few expectations before my visit in the winter of 1999 to Cairo’s Rav Moshe Synagogue, also called the “Rambam.” I only knew it to be an obscure synagogue and yeshiva associated with the renowned twelfth-century theologian, sage, and physician,… Read More ›

  • Writing Through the Body: Betty Smith’s A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Joyce Zonana

     In her 1975 manifesto, “The Laugh of the Medusa,” French feminist Hélène Cixous urges women to write: “Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. . . . Women must write through their bodies,… Read More ›

  • We the People by Joyce Zonana

    During the January 21st Women’s March in New York City, I was inspired and delighted by so many of the signs women and men had crafted to express their opposition to the current disastrous regime in the United States: “Grab… Read More ›

  • This Time by Joyce Zonana

    And the new sun rose bringing the new year. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Passing of Arthur,” Idylls of the King It’s arbitrary, of course, this designation of January 1st as New Year’s Day on the Gregorian Calendar, but it’s also… Read More ›

  • The Tremble of Love: A Novel of the Baal Shem Tov by Ani Tuzman – Reviewed by Joyce Zonana

    Never has it been more difficult for me to affirm that “love trumps hate” as during this unprecedented United States election season.  After watching the Republican Convention last July in mute horror, I took to bed for several days, overwhelmed… Read More ›

  • Digging My Well by Joyce Zonana

    I write this from the heart of a ten-day silent yoga retreat deep in central Virginia.  The peace within and without fills me as I gaze over the James River, meandering through its wide valley, thickly carpeted in green.  The… Read More ›

  • Our Ladies of Sea, Earth, and Sky by Joyce Zonana

    O Sainte Marie-Jacobe, priez pour nous. O Sainte Marie-Salome, priez pour nous. O gardeures de la Provence, priez pour nous. The priest intoned the words in deep, liquid accents, his voice echoing from the ancient stone church in the remote village… Read More ›

  • A New Covenant by Joyce Zonana

    As the Jewish High Holiday of Passover draws to a close, I have been reflecting on this seasonal ritual so central to collective Jewish identity and so significant to me personally. The Haggadah, the script for the Seder gathering, enjoins… Read More ›

  • The Hebrew Priestess: A Book Review by Joyce Zonana

    Weaver, Prophetess, Shrinekeeper, Witch; Maiden, Mother, Queen, Midwife; Wise-Woman, Mourning-Woman, Seeker, Lover, Fool . . . . Thirteen possibilities for the female self, thirteen aspects of the Goddess, thirteen archetypes for the Hebrew (or any other) Priestess . . …. Read More ›

  • To Know Her Is to Love Her by Joyce Zonana

    “As my mother passed from this life, she was surrounded by a great matrix of love. As she died I began to understand that I too am surrounded by love and always have been. This knowledge is a great mystery.”—… Read More ›

  • Rosh Hashanah and the Goddess by Joyce Zonana

    When I was growing up in the 1950s in my Egyptian Jewish immigrant home, each of the High Holidays was imbued with sacredness, thanks largely to my mother’s commitment to a creating a harmonious and memorable gathering of family and… Read More ›

  • The Flesh Made Word: Colm Toibin’s “The Testament of Mary” on stage and in print By Joyce Zonana

    Colm Toibin Fiona Shaw Testament of Mary Ephesus Artemis House of the Virgin

    Before the play begins, the audience is invited on stage; we walk around, not quite knowing what to do, gazing at the props, uncertain.  A few chairs, scattered jars of honey, jugs of water beside a free-standing waist-high faucet, a… Read More ›