The View from Palestinian America

Eid’s shots are simple and warm; one could imagine stumbling upon them in a stack of prints fresh from CVS Photo. She created them with a film camera, in part because she wanted a finite number of frames. “The physicality of advancing in the reel feels like progress,” she said. For Eid, the act of documenting is a way to resist erasure—to assert that we exist, that we have a history, and that our lives are important enough to be seen and remembered. “What we’re experiencing now goes generations deep,” she told me.

Eid took these photographs during a trip home for the holy month of Ramadan, which began five months into the war in Gaza. (She shares her surname with the Eid feast that marks the end of Ramadan.) Her initial goal was to talk to her parents about growing up in Palestine, mostly out of a concern of being cut off from her heritage. “I can’t help but associate my fear of losing my family’s history with the fear of losing our history and culture and humanity on a larger level,” she told me. When she got to Missouri, Eid found her father staring at his phone, endlessly scrolling through news coverage and analysis from Gaza. To photograph him with her dog, Professor, she had to watch him watching the destruction. “This is what it looks like: the slumped body language, the constant tethering to the news of nightmare after nightmare,” she said.

“Time stopped for me back in October, like a rupture in my multiverse,” Eid said. “Lost in daily grief, I stopped taking care of myself, so when I came to Missouri I had my little sister, Shorooq, color and wash my hair.”

Eid’s work contains many reminders of war, but they are often in the background, and the photos seem intentionally quiet. To Palestinian Americans, many details may seem nostalgic: the laminated doily tablecloth on a dining table; the embroidery of a mosque behind Eid’s father. And yet alongside this familiarity is the disheartening realization that such images are rarely seen in the news, which tends to show Palestinians with war in the foreground, and which risks reducing us to our traumas. Ramadan is a happy time, and there is levity in Eid’s photos, but she was reluctant to document the holy month’s typical celebrations. She couldn’t reconcile them with what was happening overseas. Instead, she photographed some of the things that help Palestinians overcome pain: community, solidarity, tenacity. Joy is a reminder that Palestine persists, that we carry the place with us, even as it disappears before our eyes.

Eid’s images of protest are strikingly geometric: a demonstrator forms a powerful triangle while writing on a slab of pavement with chalk; sharp parallel lines of electrical wires and lane markings frame a roadside march. In the background, we can see an iconically American strip mall that contains a Michaels and a Krispy Kreme. What’s remarkable, beyond Eid’s gift for composition, is the range of ages and backgrounds of the marchers, and the way that Palestinian flags seem to take the place of the American ones that viewers might expect. (The protests also hearken back to those in Ferguson, in St. Louis County, only fifteen miles away.)

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