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Illinois professor to talk, perform at Chicago Humanities festival

Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor
(217) 333-2177; a-lynn@illinois.edu

11/4/2002



CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Evelyne Accad, a poet, musician-songwriter, author and professor of French at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will talk and perform several original works at the Chicago Humanities Festival XIII. Theme of the festival is "Brains & Beauty."

Accad’s performance, part of Series 9: "In the Spotlight," is scheduled for 6 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7 (Thursday) in the Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., Chicago. Two other Arab-American women, Roxane Assaf and Laila Farah, also will perform. Although Series 9 is free and open to the public, tickets are required.

According to the festival program, Accad will use "a combination of original compositions for voice and guitar to explore issues related to being an Arab woman who has left her home in Lebanon, the subsequent war and exile in the United States."

Accad will sing and accompany herself on guitar. Her songs are "Perhaps It Would be Enough," "Layla, A Young Revolutionary Woman," "We Will Rebuild It," "The City is in Flames," "We Have a City to Patch Up" and "A’tini Alnaya Wa Ghanni."

All of the songs describe the catastrophic effects of war in Lebanon and the often simple, but heroic, efforts to maintain hope and normalcy in such an environment. The last stanza of "We Will Rebuild It" reads: "I refuse to accept this city / I refuse these houses built on corpses / Built on a past covered with ignominy / I refuse to forget the past."

At Illinois, Accad teaches and does research in a wide variety of areas, including Francophone studies and literatures; feminist movements, particularly in the Arab world; oppressed groups in literature; woman, violence and war; and cross-cultural studies of cancer and other contemporary diseases.

Accad is the author of 13 books, including "Voyages en Cancer" (L’Harmattan, Paris, Tunis, Beirut, 2000), which won the Phenix Prize for literature, a Franco-Lebanese award sponsored by the AUDI Bank of Lebanon.

A year later, the book was published in English under the title, "The Wounded Breast: Intimate Journeys Through Cancer" (Spinifex Press). Accad, a survivor of breast cancer and a mastectomy, said she wrote the book "to exorcise my fears, my pain, but also in order to help others, all those who will have to travel that road …."

The publisher describes the book as "a rare multicultural perspective on disease, particularly cancer, in which the author takes on a journey through the medical establishments, cultural taboos, gender-tagged attitudes and personal stories of different civilizations."

On a Fulbright Fellowship in Lebanon last spring and summer, Accad concentrated on the effects of war on women’s lives and on health issues. She interviewed women in the refuge camps of Sabra and Shatila, "where the memories of the massacres – rapes and dismemberment of women – are still very acute, and fear is very much present."

Accad said she interviewed women from various levels of Lebanese society and from various religions. She plans to use these interviews in articles and a book.

Earlier this semester, Accad attended the Women in the Global Community conference in Istanbul, where she gave a paper on "The Politics of Sexuality in the Lebanese War Novels." In late May, she gave a paper at an international colloquium in Paris on Andrée Chedid. Earlier that month, she spoke about "Women in the Writing of Chedid" at Lebanese University. In early May, she was the keynote speaker for Eastern Mediterranean University’s international conference in Cyprus. Her topic was "Worlds, Wars, Worlds: The Polemics of Narration."

Accad also recently wrote a chapter for the book "September 11, 2001: Feminist Perspectives," published by Spinifex in September.