Feminist Spotlight: Joanna Kadi

It is hard to describe Kadi’s work’s profound impact on the discussion of the interconnectedness of oppressions from joannakadichildhood experiences forward. Her work addresses, sexual violence, class oppression on the left and the right, homophobia, zenophobia, anti-Arab sentiment and Orientalism from popular culture to written texts, and the ways these are taught and internalized by children, college students, intellectuals, marginalized peoples, etc. Her gift is in the searing lyricism of her prose, be it fictional or analytical, and the intensity of her poems.

The first time I read her book Thinking Class, her descriptions of working class Catholicism and the fate of poor children born on the wrong side of town left me speechless and heartbroken for the children of my own neighborhood who did not make it out. In a world where my students often lament the loss of critiques of classism and elitism outside of discussions of global capitalism, this is the book that sets such discussions right.

She is a bold voice in feminist analysis of class and bold enough to train her eye on both conservatives and liberals guilty of classism and elitism.

Kadi connects the art of writing to revolution:

All systems of oppression — from child abuse to racism to ableism — function most effectively when victims don’t talk. Silence isolates, keeps us focussing inward rather than outward, makes perpetrators’ work easier, confuses and overwhelms. I didn’t know this as a child and teenager. I just knew I had to be quiet. The few times I managed to croak something truthful, I experienced repercussions, swift and brutal, that left no doubt about my oppressors’ intentions.

I take speech seriously. This revolutionary action often comes with severe consequences. Speaking out carries danger, and not in abstract, theoretical ways. Telling the truth can’t be taken lightly, or engaged in glibly.

Her ability to express passion about stigmatized popular culture and to confront oppression even in the places we pretend it does not exist are both profound and scary to my students and assume her general readers but also lead to some of the most provocative discussions I have had in a classroom. Always the optimist and devourer of books, Kadi also offers a message of powerful transgression, survival, and love. She does so with an unabashedly strong sense of herself as an Arab woman and a survivor of abuse. She is the author/editor of two books: Thinking Class and Food For Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab American and Arab Canadian Feminists both published by feminist press Southend.

  • Read her piece on “Writing as Resistance, Writing as Love” here.
  • Read her piece on classism in urban queer communities “Homophobic Workers or Elitest Queers” here.

3 thoughts on “Feminist Spotlight: Joanna Kadi

  1. Pingback: flip flopping joy » Blog Archive » On National Coming Out Day

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