Class of 2011
Barbara Yen Sun Prize
As a first year student, I found my life’s passion speaking and writing foreign languages. Spending my junior year abroad followed logically: I studied first at the Siena School for Liberal Arts and then at the American University in Beirut. Italy was wonderful, but it was in Lebanon, and while traveling in the region, that my love for Arabic and Middle Eastern culture crystallized. After my study abroad, I seized the opportunity to extend my stay in Lebanon, picking up a job in a café and immersing myself in a culture that came to feel like second nature to me.
Returning to the US, I was newly aware of Middle Eastern politics and cultural affairs: this awareness partnered with my realization that Americans know very little about the Middle East. So I decided to work on a project that would shed some light for English speakers on Iraq, a part of the Middle East that has had a huge impact here.
The Barbara Yen Sun prize has allowed me to realize this project: I am translating the Arabic novel The Palm Tree and the Neighbors by Ghaib Tama Furman into English. This is a story about a group of neighbors living in Baghdad during the British occupation of Iraq in World War I. The reader gets a real sense of what life was like for Iraqis during this stressful era. Especially regarding today’s situation in Iraq, this novel gives the reader a greater understanding of history and a basis to compare the past and the present.
I hope this translation will be a springboard for my career goal and aspirations as an Arabic translator, technical translator or even interpreter. The Sun Prize has given me financial assistance to complete this laborious and rewarding task as well as recognition for my work, recognition that may carry me into my future.