Identity Found: On West Side via West Bank

From The New York Times:

Najla Najla Said’s “Palestine,” a one-woman Off Broadway show that began previews on Saturday, is a coming-of-age story about Ms. Said’s journey to become an Arab-American on her own terms. The daughter of Edward W. Said, the Columbia University professor who until his death in 2003 was the most prominent advocate in this country for the cause of Palestinian independence, Ms. Said guides the audience though her teenage years as a self-described politically agnostic Upper West Side princess to a vision of herself today, a 35-year-old woman who is deeply moved by the very word “Palestine.”

Ms. Said, a writer and actor, insists that she is not an especially political person. “Palestine,” which officially opens on Feb. 17 at the Fourth Street Theater in the East Village, offers no remedies for Mideast tensions or blanket assessments of a complex situation. Ms. Said just tells her tale (with generous helpings of humor), which includes attending an elite Manhattan prep school (Trinity), where she blended in with her Jewish friends; becoming anorexic at 15; and visiting the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan and Lebanon with her family, where her priority was often getting in some beach time rather than analyzing the geopolitical situation. “I worried about being pretty enough, smart enough and fitting in,” Ms. Said recalled during a recent interview about “Palestine” and the years before 9/11 cast a dark shadow. “In the way of many immigrant kids,” she added, “I just wanted all the questions about identity to go away.”

Those questions persisted, of course. And so on a minimalist stage, with shifts in mood and scene accomplished by an original soundtrack of Arabic and Western music, Ms. Said talks about them. Her trips to the Middle East with her family were sometimes a jumble of confusion, she says, with the smell of open sewage in Gaza, the stark separation of the sexes, the food and the language that seemed to have nothing to do with her cushy Upper West Side life.

More here. (Note: I saw the play…she is brilliant at telling a poignant story…some of the best parts are of course about her incomparable father, the magnificent Edward Said.)