Though we have taken on numerous content editing projects over the past seven years, the team is excited to announce it’s first project under the new Sirocco Blue name. Dr. Yaser Robles has sought out our feedback on his autobiographical piece under the themes of home, belonging, and identity.
Part of Robles’s topic was covered in the UUP-Oneonta Local 2190 journal article by Dr. Rob Compton. Robles’s work in progress contextualizes his experience growing up in Honduras and South Bronx and incorporates Jonathan Kozol’s writing, the construction of the Cross Bronx highway, and lived experience in multiple public schools. The young scholar describes his mother’s story of crossing the U.S. border, the opportunities that opened for the family, and he explores education as an anchor that allowed his family to make enormous strides forward while outlining some of the challenges they faced moving through multiple neighborhoods of South Bronx.
Our first reading connects to translation theory and for this, we turn to Dr. Mazen Naous, the first scholar (at least writing in English) to look, literally and poetically, at ‘equivalent’ words for ‘translation’ in Arabic: tarjama.
In his dissertation project, Professor Naous shows how translation (tarjama), in an Arabic language context, implies biography, autobiography. Relevant to Robles’s work, the telling of one’s story (one’s own and one’s family story) is an activity that involves tarjama as the essence of the self is carried across into language. Sharing one’s life history is an act of translation, in other words as is the rendering of that experience into a written account. In that way, Robles journeys into family stories and impressions on South Bronx, a merging of voices and biographies that resembles a kind of translation montage (literally, in Spanish and English, and metaphorically in the Arabic sense of the word tarjama, or translation). Naous writes:
Thus, our first general feedback as content editors pins on voice: if an essay is to explore home, belonging, and identity, why is the act of telling—translation/tarjama—not the “theory”? Can telling be the “home” that Robles explores? One of the great Afro-Futurist writers, Daniel José Older, shares the following at a local workshop:
And so, as content editors, our questions continue: When you grow up in your topic, when you are translating yourself in Naous’s definition of tarjama/translation, it seems it would be most compelling to locate the translative autobiographical act in the place itself (in Honduras and South Bronx, in the case of Robles’s essay). And this, too, has been explored poetically by none other than Salman Rushdie, who explores the Latin root for ‘translation’:
“The word ‘translation’ comes, etymologically, from the Latin for ‘bearing across’. Having been borne across the world, we are translated men. It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately to the notion that something can also be gained.” (Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991)
The statement on migration and immigration (the so-called ‘postcolonial subject’ who moves or has been moved, often by force, across or through a boundary—a fascinating topic illuminated by Dr. Stephen Clingman) also comes to mind, especially as Robles searches the contours of ‘home’ and notions of ‘belonging’ by sharing his family story.
The movement across national boundaries, much like translation, much like the movement between past and present involved in tarjama produces a new being, a new sense of being, a new “text.” If there is such a thing as translated people, if Robles is doing what Naous might call tarjama or translation in its metaphoric sense, is Robles locating his account in translation? Is the ‘home’ one of translation and therefore do the ideas of belonging and identity in his essay pin on translation?
We will continue to post on our impressions of Dr. Robles’s work under the “editing” category. Please stay tuned!