In the early morning hours of February 6th, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck the west of the Turkish city of Gaziantep at 4:17am local time. Mere hours later, an unusually strong aftershock earthquake with a magnitude of 7.7 followed, centered in the northeast province of Kahramanmaras. The death toll climbs above 30,000, as the injured rise above 80,000. Over 13 million people have been affected. Beyond the devastation in Turkey, is the unfathomable fatalities and damage in Northern Syria, whose people are still waiting for rescue operations. It is hard to put this loss into words, and there is collective anger and grief; emotions we have all felt ourselves whether we live around the world, or in Syria or Turkey. So often, catastrophes occur and we are forced to reckon with them and move on quickly. It may take more than our lifetimes for these cities and for our people to recover. That is why we wanted to organize this event. To create a space to share powerful stories and gather with the people we love.
In lieu of ticket payments or beverage fees, we ask that you donate whatever you are able, to the list of NGOs we’ve provided.
The program includes a series of readings by Zaina Arafat, Elif Batuman, Mona Eltahawy, Leyla Hamedi, Mina Hamedi, Nazli Koca, Alana Saab, Mina Seçkin. And followed by a screening of Breaking Fast with Coca Cola by Amy Omar.
Breaking Fast with Coca Cola (Writer / Director: Amy Omar; Producers: Karine Benzaria; Jordan Hart; Amy Omar): After growing up in the secular households of their Turkish immigrant parents in the Midwest, Özlem and Ada are desperate to celebrate a tradition of their own. For the first time, they embark on a day of fasting and a night of feasting for Ramadan.
Zaina Arafat is a Palestinian-American writer and the author of the novel, You Exist Too Much, which won a 2021 Lambda Literary Award and was named Roxane Gay’s favorite book of 2020. She teaches creative writing at Barnard College and The School of The New York Times, and is currently at work on her second book.
Elif Batuman’s first novel, The Idiot, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and for the Women’s Prize. The sequel, Either/Or, was published in 2022. She has been a staff writer at New Yorker since 2010.
Mona Eltahawy is an international women’s rights activist and author. Her first book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution was published in 2015 and her second book, The Seven Necessary Sins For Women and Girls was published in 2019. She is editing an anthology on menopause called Bloody Hell! And Other Stories: Adventures in Menopause from Across the Personal and Political Spectrum. Her third book, THE KING HERSELF, will be published via Mariner in 2024. Mona’s words have appeared in media around the world and she writes a newsletter titled FEMINIST GIANT, which at present, has over 40,000 subscribers.
Leyla Hamedi is a Turkish/Iranian writer and educator living in NYC. She has written about the aspects of her twin cultures for various sources including PopMatters and Vice, and is currently working on her MFA in Popular Fiction and Publishing. As an educator at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, her classes on world religions, sacred geometry, and immigration always integrate the overlaps between the Middle East and the rest of the world.
Mina Hamedi is a Turkish/Iranian writer and literary agent. She holds a BA in Nonfiction from NYU’s Gallatin School and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Columbia University. Mina began her career in publishing at David Black Literary Agency and Writers House. She joined Janklow & Nesbit in 2018 where she supports co-founder Lynn Nesbit and represents adult literary fiction and nonfiction. Mina lives in New York with her two Turkish street cats, Saffron and Lemon. She is a member of the American Association of Literary Agents (AALA), and her writing has appeared in Joyland, The Black Warrior Review, Catapult and elsewhere.
Nazlı Koca was born and raised on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey and moved to the US five years ago by way of Berlin, Germany. Her first novel, The Applicant, was published by Grove Press in February 2023.
Alana Saab is an author and award-winning screenwriter based in NYC. Her debut novel, “Please Stop Trying To Leave Me,” is represented by Janklow & Nesbit and set to release Summer 2024 (Vintage Books, PRH). You can also find her words in Pank Magazine, Epiphany Magazine and more. Saab has an MFA in Fiction from The New School, a Masters in Psychology from Columbia University and her BA from NYU, Gallatin. Using her research at Columbia, Alana works with survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking to utilize storytelling as a healing and self-actualizing medium. She also mentors writers who are incarcerated at maximum security prisons throughout the United States. Overall, Alana’s work explores themes of mental health, queerness, collective and individual trauma and the transcendent through a metamodern approach.
Mina Seçkin is the author of The Four Humors (Catapult, 2021). She serves as managing editor of Apogee Journal and completed her MFA at Columbia University, where she received the Felipe De Alba Fellowship as well as her bachelor degree. Her work has been published in Refinery 29, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.
Amy Omar is a Turkish American writer, director, producer, and entertainment lawyer living in NYC. Amy is a recipient of Wavelength Productions’ WAVE (Women At the Very Edge) Grant for BIPOC, first time female filmmakers and recently wrote and directed her first short film, Breaking Fast with a Coca-Cola which will premiere at SXSW in 2023 and also screen at various Oscar-qualifying festivals. In Spring 2022, she produced the short film Letter Eight, a recipient of the Kodak Shot on Film Fund. Letter Eight premiered at the Santa Monica Film Festival in 2023. Amy is currently in pre-production on her second short film, Ayşegül on Tuesdays. Along with Breaking Fast with a Coca-Cola, Ayşegül on Tuesdays will be part of a three-part short film anthology centered around the Turkish-American experience.
SYRIAN AMERICAN MEDICAL SOCIETY
THE WHITE HELMETS (SYRIA)
Here is a list of publications read by the writers in this event:
You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy
The Applicant by Nazli Koca
The Four Humors by Mina Seçkin