Words from Home

A poetry series exploring the relationship between home, language, and the immigrant experience


Fields of Knowledge
  • Memory
  • Performance
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture

Contributing Institutions

Penn Middle East Center and Near East Languages & Cultures Department, and Moonstone Arts Center

Opens to public



6 to 7:30pm


4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to present Words from Home, a series of readings featuring two poets of Arab heritage, Lena Khalaf Tuffaha and Nathalie Handal, reading from their newly published works. The events explore the relationship between home and immigration, and the role language plays in the immigrant experience, and will take place held on Thursday, October 3, 2019 from 6 to 7:30pm with Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, and Thursday, October 30 from 6 to 7:30pm with Nathalie Handal. Both events have been organized with and Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture and are presented in collaboration with University of Pennsylvania's Middle East Center, Near East Languages & Cultures Department, and Moonstone Arts Center. A Q&A, light fare reception, and book signing will follow the poetry readings.

What perspectives do women bring to the definition of "home" and the experience of immigration? What role does language play in the immigrant experience? During a political moment when immigration is defined by, at once, hostility and uncertainty, hope and solidarity, Words From Home brings together poets who take up these questions with force. Khalaf Tuffaha's and Handal's work (featured on October 3 and October 30, respectively) explores the intersection of womanhood, migration, and global representation of Arab history and culture.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha centers her latest book, Letters from the Interior, on women's roles in being protectors of culture in contexts of trauma, war, and displacement. Renowned poet Naomi Shihab Nye describes Khalaf Tuffaha's work as the "absolutely essential, crucial, elegant poems many of us yearn for in our frustrated longings for a connected world." Life in a Country Album by Nathalie Handal is a meditation on borders and citizenship, hybrid identities and home, freedom and pleasure. Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate, shares, "I love how the desire and longing running through these poems reaches me via the collections of many voices and cityscapes, and—most and--most poignantly--via the borders between bodies, nations and hearts."

read more

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, is a Seattle-based poet, essayist, and translator. An American of Palestinian, Jordanian and Syrian heritage, many of her poems are inspired by the experience of crossing cultural, geographic and political borders, borders between languages, between the present and the living past. Her previous books, Water and Salt (2017), winner of the 2018 Washington State Book Award for Poetry, and Arab in Newsland (2016), winner of the 2016 Two Sylvias Prize have earned her regional and national recognition. Lena's poems have been published in print and online journals including Magnolia, Blackbird, Barrow Street, the Taos Journal for International Poetry and Art, Diode, Floating Bridge Review, Mizna, Borderlands: Texas Review and Sukoon.

Nathalie Handal is an award-winning poet, playwright, and editor. Currently a professor at Columbia University, Handal draws on a multicultural background in her much-lauded work, including a childhood spent in Latin America, France and the Middle East, and an education in Asia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Her recent book The Republics was described as "one of the most inventive books by one of today's most diverse writers" and won her the Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing and the Arab American Book Award. Handal's work has appeared in Vanity Fair, Guernica Magazine, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Nation, The Irish Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, and on PBS and NPR, among others.