ShareMy customers at East Line Books have family all over the world. A particular family that I am very close to has grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt. I wrote to ask if their family was okay and received an answer back from the mother and this answer from Sarrah, the 16-year-old daughter:
Thanks so much for your concern. It really means a lot that you care about us so much. Our family is fine, my dad has talked to them and none of them are hurt, but order is quickly slipping away so we won't be sure until the situation is solved. That being said, I'm really proud of the protesters, and just amazed at the vitality of the human spirit. I know things will turn out alright--whether it be my naivete or the truth--and in the meantime we can watch a bit of history. Thank you so much for caring about us, a lot of people don't even know what's going on.
Sarrah's family visited Egypt for a wedding last year and Sarrah wrote about their travels in one of East Line's creative writing classes for teens. She sent me an excerpt with permission to publish it here:
It is hot. I look around at the other women and wonder how they survive in long dresses, pants, long sleeves, and veils. In New York they'd be dressed perfectly for a September afternoon. But it's April in Egypt, and though there are many other tourists out to see the pyramids of Gaza--right outside the gargantuan city of Cairo, though no one will ever tell you the short cut is through back roads where you might catch a glimpse of a family slaughtering a goat, or piles of trash on the sides of the dusty roads--all I can see is the school girls and boys climbing on the mountains their ancestors built. I am amazed that the sky never sees fit to rain, as if it has the same mentality as me. Crying is a weakness to be reserved only for pain and never for emotions. The lack of clouds gives it a dusty appeal. Everything in the country is dusty.
Sarrah continued to write to me about her feelings about what is happening now in Egypt:
When I visited Egypt in April, I was honestly mystified by the ancient city. I saw many examples of poverty that an American teenager cannot comprehend. It surprised me that a soldier could stand outside carrying some massive piece of artillery. I feel that the recent events in Egypt are not only a turning point in the history of the country, but a turning point for me. Yes I am worried for my family, but I'm too naive to believe that they will fall into harms way. I'm amazed at the human spirit. About three hundred million people live in America and almost all of them have ancestry in another country. Many of us have family still living in other countries. Yet I've never thought that I would see something like this hit my life. I never thought that Egypt would be the one making history, to me it would always be some other person's protest. Some other person's life. I went to Egypt as an American, and came back as an American. But when I was there, I never thought of it as a police state, I saw it as a poorer country. However, it is a police state. When I saw the riots on TV I wasn't surprised at all, and I wasn't scared. I was proud that I can honestly say I have blood running through my veins that comes from two nationalities not willing to take any oppression.
As you can see, Sarrah is an extraordinary person as well as an extraordinary writer. I am honored to know her and her family and would never have met them if I didn't own a bookshop.