I get quiet. I’m not sure how to explain to him that Muslim women have sex too. He doesn’t believe me. He says, “I used to think we’d end up together. But you had a child”. I laugh. I tell him that the prophet married Khadija even though she had children. He says it was different then. “I’d marry you if you were a virgin”. I ask if that’s what he wants.
In my book No Matter the Time I turn the lens away from my own life and towards history. I focus the lens on the greatest love stories the world has ever known. No Matter the Time is a collection of love letters between historical couples. In each of them, I find fragments of love I’ve known. I hope you do, too.
When writing this book, I knew I wanted to include an Albanian couple and, like most Albanian children, I grew up hearing the legend of Shote Galica. What I didn’t know was that there was an incredible love story behind the legend.
The best kind of love strengthens us, tests our boundaries, and helps us become the people we always dreamed of being. This is how I think of Shote & Azem Galica. I feel lucky to be able to include them in this collection. I hope you enjoy.
Frika nga etiketimi na mban peng pothuajse gjithë jetën. Frikësohemi të flasim me zë të lartë, frikësohemi që keqkuptohemi – se ndoshta nuk “na merr” kush. Për këtë lloj të shqiptarëve, karakteri i gruas ka vetëm dy kategori: Per ata, ne nuk jemi personalitete komplekse në sy të shoqërisë tonë. Nuk jemi njerëz me mendime te ndryshme, karaktere në evoluim, personalitete që kanë vibrim konstant në lëvizje… por, jemi të thjeshta, jemi vetëm bardh e zi : të shtëpisë dhe të përdala. Për ata, të jesh femër në karrierë, me punë, që udhëton, që ulesh në tavolina me burra dhe debaton, diskuton, flet me zë të lartë si ata duke mos pasur frikë, të bën të përdalë.
Maybe this little blurb will solve nothing. Maybe it will simply make some roll their eyes, and others mad. But if one, just one, young woman reads this and realizes that her internalized misogyny can be unlearned, that she doesn’t have to hate other women to succeed in life, then my piece has accomplished its goal. I didn’t write this to be shady. It wrote itself out of the pain and disappointment of seeing bright young women all over my social medias (and real life) tear each-other apart over ideals they were taught they should want. Maybe they didn’t even realize they were doing it, but it’s time we taught each-other than there is no bigger strength in today’s reality than the support of other women.
What a controversy it is... Seeing here portrayed by the stuff I own, the person who I was until now and the person who I am going to be. Together in one suitcase, I am putting the short silk dress I wore exhaustively this past summer and Tolstoy’s’ "Anna Karenina", which I always had with me the days I wore this dress to the park. More than for my own possessions, I had to make room for my new designer evening gowns, my perfectly shining liras and my embroidered mindila. The latter, various gifts from the "future", which, like it or not, I will have to wear.
Will it be possible for me to merge these two identities as effortlessly in myself as I did in this suitcase? Or will accepting the one mean losing the other?
Një gjë e caktuar se nëna ime do thoshte, ka qëndruar gjithmonë me mua. Kur une isha nje vajze e re, shpesh e dëgjoja nenen time duke derdellis me grate e tjera: Per vajzat më vjen keq gjithmone. Nuk ju dihet kismeti.
Besoj qe nuk e kam kuptuar me te vertete peshen e këtyre fjaleve deri ne naten e fundit. Duke i renditur njezet e dy vjet te gjerave te mia, fillova të humbni kontrollin e emocioneve të mia qe unë kisha shtypur aq forte se bashku me këto kuti: plehra, per te dhuruar, per te sjelle me vete. E kapa veten duke qesh nën hundë me paradoxin e skenës. Si e rregullt çdo gjë u shfaq para meje, por pasiguria e së ardhmes peshonte rëndë në gjoksin tim.
Where the Poppies Bloom is a story of a family torn apart by the ravages of war. Neighbors and friends became enemies, warriors and victims. Wartime rape has been a subject that few have had the ability to write about, let alone speak openly about such a topic. As Albanian women, our honor is often tied to our body. I say ability rather than courage because it would be an injustice to survivors to call it courage. They are courageous even in their silence. They bear the scars of war internally and yet they continue to live and to love. They bring forth and rise up a new generation of Albanian women.
E di qe nuk eshte lehte, me ra ne dashuri me dicka qe ndoshta nuk perputhet me idealet qe te tjeret i presin nga ti. Besom qe nuk eshte asnjehere lehte, te jesh person i drejt-perdrejt, qe ngrite zerin larte ne nje kultur e cila e sheh idealin e femres si dicka te kundert nga kjo. Mami yt e ka pas shume veshtire ta don veteveten, kur nje kultur e tere i thoshte qe personaliteti i saj "i forte" nuk perputhet me idealin "femeror". Por dije qe mami yt, sot si vajze, e ka kuptuar qe lumturia e saj nuk gjindet ne idealin e te tjerve, dhe ashtu nuk do gjindet as lumturia e jote.
Kush jam unë? A kam ardhë n’këtë jetë vetëm me përjetue dhimbje? Apo ky asht nji ndëshkim që jam femër? Se për mue ishte mallkim që kam lind femër, po nga kush isa e mallkuar, nga jeta, njerëzit apo vetvetja?
I am an Albanian man. I was born here in the United States. My parents are from Kosova. I also happen to be a gay man. A lot of people might think, so what? What does one have to do with the other? A lot! And not in a good way either.
I have sort of made it a personal goal to remind my Albanian brothers and sisters that gay Albanians do exist. We are your children, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and whoever else you have in your life. All we want is what you want, to be loved and part of this huge and crazy family called Albanians.
I have seen them become less human to satisfy another human as if their own self wasn’t enough. As if they had extra bones to give away. As if they had an extra heart somewhere inside of them. As if they were going to be given another set of hands because in this life, they were guaranteed to get wrinkled before they age. It was as if they were never meant to hold a pencil. As if they were not strong enough to think, but they were strong enough to take commands.
"Up until the mid-90s if you were openly gay in Albania, you would be sent to prison. Many homosexuals stil face bigotry and violence, even in their own homes.
In the last five years, Albania has seen a dynamic LGBTQ movement. Gay activists have created secret guest houses in Tirana that offer shelter to young homosexuals who have been brutally abused.
VICE Greece traveled to Albania and recorded rare glimpses into the lives of people who have been victimized and neglected because of their sexual orientation in one of Europe's most homophobic countries." -VICE
The problem with the glorification of our mothers’ sacrifices is not rooted in the past, but is in the way we choose to deal with it today. We have come to the romantic conclusion that suffering is equivalent to heroism. It is this kind of admiration of women that has historically been planted into the collective memory of this society that reduces the woman to a passive member of society. Again, the problem is not simply in the fact that a problem exists. The problem is we choose not to learn much from it.
In the center of Prishtina, there stands a freshly inaugurated monument that for me, best illustrates how it feels to be a woman in Kosovo. It is a monument dedicated to the “heroines” of Kosovo. It is a face with no identity.
I want to tell the late poet Ali Podrimja: I know why Kumanova causes me such anguish. I truly know why Kumanova causes me such anguish. 1 Would he laugh? Understand? Suppose- an arm around my shoulder, shaking his head saying But, child, that’s just the Balkans squeezing your heart again! More of the pained laughter. No matter, he who doesn’t know why he longs for Shkup; I, who know why Kumanova wounds- We are the both of us stumbling, or else falling in this futile attempt of navigating this treacherous sea that swallows whole- In this howling rain that only falls to uncover more bodies- the undying symphony of the Balkans. I the wannabe poet. He speaking what mountains could say if they talked, we- the both of us- beating an already dead chest in mourning. Ever since the border.
Finally. Believe us, we share your sentiments. The second installation of FEMRAT's conversational series featuring a woman, warrior, Shqiptare, is long overdue. The editing process is often a frenzy of deleting footage of no real value, but with Fortesa Latifi, we were left mending the wounds of the unedited shots that would never make it to the final cut. Her words are so carefully crafted that they have become a staple in bookshelves of those lucky enough to have discovered Fortesa Latifi, and the collection of poems in her first book, This Is How We Find Each Other.
Some time ago, I tuned the channel to a television program, here in Albania, where I live, where the topic of conversation was about the relationship and equality between men and women. There were several men featured as guests, and throughout the entire program the specific wording used to describe women was equal to that of an object. Even when the conversation shifted towards women's rights...the dialogue was all wrong.
I visited Kosovo in the summer of 2009 when I was 16 years old. By that age, I was used to the verbal abuse hurled at me on the streets of Prishtina and took every possible precaution which family members warned might lessen the problem; dressing modestly, not wearing much make-up, not walking alone.
One night, my brother and I were walking home together. Once we were across the street from my sister’s apartment building (he had to go down a different street to go to my halla’s apartment where he was staying that summer). My brother kissed me on the cheek and watched me walk across the street before turning the corner and heading for my halla’s apartment. I was crossing the street to enter my sister’s apartment building when I first heard the taunting.
“Where did your boyfriend go? Did he leave you for me to have?
You were born on the cusp of change. Salt water hanging in the wind beckoning those displaced. You’re the generation of babies bundled in cheap blankets, homes left behind, abandoned, with people still inside, disconnected phone lines, and letters, smuggled in from Germany.
Join us for an evening of conversation with poet, author, and Kosovare, Fortesa Latifi. Her book, This Is How We Find Each Other, was published through Where Are You Press in December 2014. Everything from Fortesa's poetry, including her fan favorite "Boys Will Be Boys (And Why That Is The Stupidest Thing You Could Ever Say To A Little Girl)", to the historical and contemporary status of feminist theory across the Balkans will be included in the dialogue.
"Where do you find your greatest source of support?"
- in myself.
FEMRAT can't get over the fact that Ejona Maçi is only twenty five years old. She carries herself with a light and positivity that is delightfully contagious, and a work ethic that is unrivaled. Originally from Tropojë, Albania, Ejona's inspiring story of migration, design and entrepreneurship will leave an imprint on your soul. She is the owner of two successful businesses, a driven entrepreneur, and just recently launched her own fashion label. Watch the video below to learn how this Woman, Warrior, Shqiptarë does it all.
Oh Kosovë ty qka te beren? Ta vranë babën ta vranë dhe nënën. Lan jetima shumë vajza e djemë, shtëpia te digjura prush dhe zjerrm. Erdh koha, lufta perfundoj po dhimbja e loti kurrë nuk pushoj. I harruan krejt heroet e atdheut, Adem Jasharin dhe Skenderbeun.
Ku jeni bre patriota, kur Kosova juve po ju thrët e po bertët? Ka njerz skan buk mi jep fëmijëve e vet e knej do tjer knaqen nxhet. Oh shtet a spo e sheh popullin tendë qe po ik per shakun e juaj, Jo qe veq pe shitni Kosovën, pi shkellni edhe viktimat e atdheut qe per juve e perqafuan dheun. Qelny syt, qohuni per tokën e fëmijëve, se toka e huaj kurrë nuk do të behet vendi juaj.
Dear Nenë, This is for you. For all of the Albanian mothers scattered across the world with calloused hands and hearts bigger than their bodies. For the mothers who left all that they knew for the hope of a better tomorrow for their children. The ones who took what little they had, and packed it along with the light of future memories. For the mothers who witnessed the devil come to their doorstep on the eve of a long and morbid spring, yet stood valiantly at his sight. The ones who have had to outlive their husbands, brothers, and sons. The mothers who sacrificed, and fled, and reassembled the pieces of their lives, far from comfort and familiarity.
Dear Motër, This is for you. She who understands me. She who vows to recognize contemporary issues of gender, sexuality, and society within our community. She who inspires and befriends, rather than belittles and competes. Free of judgement and with open arms. She is there, because she knows how it feels to be lost.