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Too Difficult Conversations

April 7, 2012

A short while ago, the editors of the collection of essays “Polyphonic Feminisms:  Acting in Concert” contacted me, asking for a submission on the topic of my choice.  The invitation was quite personal, they were clearly familiar with my work, and asked me to write on just about anything that would fit under the umbrella “Polyphonic Feminisms.”  I decided to write a piece about “Difficult Conversations” those necessary conversations allies must have, in order to move forward together and advance a common cause.

I submitted the piece, and got this response:



Nada Elia’s article was a pleasure, though difficult, to read. She

rightly poses the tough questions the Left so often avoids. Her

argument is thorough and systematic. My recommendations are to expand

the parts about equal time (esp. given what seems to me to be the

one-sidedness of mainstream news in the U.S.) and on gender,

particularly since this journal issue is on feminisms. She might say

more about not only the focus on the veil as problematic, but the

new/old discourses of democracy and women’s “empowerment” as central

to empire building in the Middle East.

Overall, this is an important and timely article.


I was thrilled.  I totally agreed with the reviewer (still don’t know who they are) that this was important and timely.  I am not being facetious when I say this, I write a lot, and some of my essays are what I would describe as “luxury,” an indulgence, others convey urgency.  This was one of the latter–we are at a critical moment in history, we must be actors, not objects, and my essay was about how to best shoulder the responsibility.  In a feminist manner.

I asked how I could expand on the topics the reviewer suggests, since I was already at the word limit, and the editor responded with “chuck the word limit, we want your essay.”  So I expanded, resubmitted by the new deadline, and waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Then I contacted the editor.

Asked what was up.  

She was evasive, said she was busy, would get back to me in a few days.

A few days later, I contacted her again.

Did not hear back from her.


For many long weeks.  Then this:


I wanted to make sure you got my email from a few weeks ago. I should

have followed up when I didn’t hear back from you, but I got caught up

in the last push to publish the journal, which is now out. The

director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women made some cuts to

the issue because she thought there were too many pieces, and yours

was one of the cuts she made. I hope we may still find the space to

work together at some future point.


I do not believe her.  After I submitted my longer version, I was the one contacting her, and not hearing back.  There is no email mail from her that I did not respond to in a timely manner.  All of her messages were going to my yahoo account as well as my work email, and there is no unread email from her in either mailbox.

So I told her that this is just a sad, sad pattern where once again, critical Palestinian voices are silenced, because they are “too difficult,” even for a collection of essays on “Polyphonic Feminisms” and “Difficult Dialogues.”  As it is, there is no Arab voice in this collection.  Yes, one more such supposedly “representative” anthology.


Makes me wanna holler….


Here is my message to her:


Hello Mandy,


I am disappointed but, to be quite honest, not surprised.  I cannot tell you how many times I have had a piece accepted with enthusiastic comments such as “very strong, timely, powerful, needed, etc, etc” only to have it cut at the last minute.  The excuses range from “too long” to “one too many” to “we never heard back from you” (the latter despite the consistent coincidence of only having potential editors “not hearing back” from me, when everyone else comments on how well I keep up with email.) 

This may be a first for you, but in my experience, publishers and editors tend to have cold feet about anything that really pushes the envelope.







From → Uncategorized

  1. This is not new, it’s a “Note” I copied from my Facebook page, and I am posting it here to contextualize my next post, “Difficult Conversations, Part Two.” Because we still need to have them.

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  1. Difficult Conversations, Part Two « mypeopletoo

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