Wanting in Arabic

Winner of the Lambda Literary Award, Transgender Fiction, 2014

Wanting in Arabic is a refusal of convenient silences, convenient stories. The author dwells on the contradictions of a transsexual poetics, in its attendant disfigurations of lyric, ghazal, l’ecriture feminine, and, in particular, her own sexed voice. Without a memory of her father’s language, the questions her poems ask are those for a home known through photographs, for a language lost with childhood.

Braiding theoretical concerns with the ambivalences of sexed and raced identity, with profound romanticism, Wanting in Arabic attempts to traverse the fantasies of foundational loss and aggressive nostalgia in order to further a poetics of a conscious partiality of being, of generous struggle and comic rather than tragic misrecognition.

“The poems are routes one might take to reach home in your own body, mind, history, and landscape. They vibrate with longing and tenderness.”
–Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf

“Employing a number of different poetic modes, Salah’s writing is by turns political, evocative, and quite often hot. A Lebanese-Canadian from Nova Scotia who never saw her father’s homeland nor spoke his tongue, Salah explores the nuances of identity, and her writing is simply gorgeous.”
The Walrus

“[Wanting in Arabic] shares a cultural experience rarely made available to mainstream American audiences.”

Praise for the first edition:

Wanting in Arabic is a self-impelled keening for identification with a lost tongue, both that of her father’s Lebanese roots and her own metamorphosis … cross-citing psychoanalytic and feminist wagers about the sexed text … with glam-porno rubber-assed apostrophes to various lovers (not a poetics of celibacy, I assure you), with the funny and poignant savvy of postcolonial theory…. This indeterminate and determined voice chronicles the trans-self’s journey as a tour et retour de force…. With ethical toughness and carnal ecstasy, Salah’s writing bosoms up every damn dam in the literary waterway.”
–Margaret Christakos, The Globe and Mail

“This is a beautiful and disturbing collection of poems, writing from the uncharted langscape of the third sex. Images of the rose, of the beloved, can they be made new? Yes indeed, Wanting in Arabic does just that.”
–Mary Di Michele, author of Debriefing the Rose

“Trish Salah’s poetic sequence is not simply a narrative of gender change; it’s a wandering, thoughtful text, one both fierce and tremulous.”
–Erin Mouré, author of Furious and Domestic Fuel


Publication Date: November 2013

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-927494-30-1
Page size: 5.75″ x 8.75″
104 pages

Trish Salah lives and writes in Tkaronto and is associate professor of Gender Studies at Queen’s University, which is located on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory. She is the author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning poetry collection, Wanting in Arabic (Mawenzi House), and of Lyric Sexology, Vol. 1 (Metonymy Press). She is a Pushcart nominated poet and has work in recent issues of Mizna and Tripwire, and in We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics. She is editor of the Journal of Critical Race Inquiry, and co-editor of special issues of TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, on cultural production, and of Arc Poetry Magazine, featuring poetry by trans, Two-Spirit and non-binary writers.