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  • Writer's pictureSara Sharpe

Friend, it's the stories that save us.

Dear one.

News from the Middle East is heartbreaking. (As is news from Ukraine, Sudan, the DRC, Haiti…). Who can say or write anything worthwhile in the face of such horror? And though words are grossly insufficient, silence during a letter-writing campaign designed to bridge the ideological divide is hardly an option. And so, we write.

Oddly (or not), I’ve been thinking about a play I co-wrote a few years ago called Voices of Nashville, commissioned by the Tennessee Women’s Theatre Project. My co-writer Christine Mather and I spent months interviewing new Americans, and from those interviews emerged a narrative of the immigration experience. We met and wrote about Adriana, a young Mexican woman forced to leave her mother behind; Anna, a woman who escaped the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan; Gatlauk, a former boy soldier from Sudan; and finally, a Muslim woman named Midya.

In one of my favorite parts of the play, Midya “took questions” from the audience. Her answers challenged many of our assumptions about Muslim women. (Q: “Why do Muslim women have to cover their hair?” A: “I was never forced to wear hijab. My family gave my sisters and me a choice. I choose to wear hijab as an act of devotion…”) Midya’s story, which was based on the life of a remarkable woman, unfolded throughout the play.

One night, my friend Kelly came to the theatre. Kelly, who grew up and lived in a small town in Tennessee, had never been to a play. I was so excited to have her in the audience I rushed to the lobby to find her as soon as it ended. She took one look at me, burst into tears, and said, “I was afraid of Muslim women before tonight!”

Friend, it’s the stories that save us.



PS. Next letter, ISRAEL/PALESTINE: Either / OR or BOTH / AND, coming tomorrow. Much to write about these days, eh?

What days.

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