Mad Jack

I love words – probably a little too much if you ask most people who know me. I hate punctuation – it sobers up my rants and, let's be honest, nobody likes a clear-headed, restrained diatribe.

The Outpost – The Body Issue

I contributed two pieces to The Outpost’s most recent body-themed issue.

The first – a profile – focused on Hussein Ghandour, a prosthetics technician who lost an arm and a leg to an Israeli cluster bomb when he was a child and has dedicated his life to helping people with similar injuries in Lebanon “find their way back to ordinary.”

The second – a feature that combined personal reflections and reporting – looked at the stigma around mental health in Lebanon and the country’s alleged, paradoxical over-dependence on psychotropic drugs.

Visit http://www.the-outpost.com/ to figure out where to buy a copy of the latest issue.

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Lebanon’s First Free Fashion School

In this piece for Al-Monitor, I spoke with the team behind Creative Space Beirut, Lebanon’s first free fashion school.

“A nonprofit, CSB runs a three-year program catering to students from underprivileged backgrounds. It relies primarily on the generosity of donors for sustainability and it admits only four new students a year, choosing to offer a compact cohort a fulfilling experience rather than overreaching and providing more students with less.”

Read the full article here.

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The Fight Continues for LGBT Rights in Lebanon

This piece I wrote for Al-Monitor highlights recent developments in the fight for LGBT rights in Lebanon.

“While Lebanese law does not explicitly criminalize homosexuality, Article 534 of the penal code, which prohibits “sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature,” is often used to prosecute LGBT people, even though “nature” has not been legally defined in Lebanon.”

Read the full article here.

Beirut’s First Pay-What-You-Want Restaurant Is Bringing Sri Lanka to Lebanon

My latest for Munchies, on Lebanon’s first pay-what-you-think-is-fair restaurant and it’s effort to introduce lesser-known cuisines to the country.

“When it comes to foreign cuisine, Lebanon is stuck somewhere in the 1970s, as if the only things worth eating were fettuccine Alfredo, steak frites, guacamole, and sweet and sour chicken.

This is particularly disappointing given its substantial and diverse population of foreign nationals. The country is home to around 250,000 migrant domestic workers, for example, most of whom hail from African, South Asian, and Southeast Asian nations like Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines. It’s hard not to connect their culinary underrepresentation to the widespread racism against non-Western migrant workers in Lebanon, whom NGOs report suffer routine physical, emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of their employers.”

Read the full article here.

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This Seaside Brewery Is Upgrading Lebanon’s Craft Beer Scene

I wrote this piece for Vice’s Munchies section on Lebanon’s small but growing craft beer ‘movement’, focusing specifically on the country’s latest and second microbrewery, Colonel.

“As a Lebanese, I’m very much a creature of Beirut. I’ve long been desensitized to the human and vehicular congestion hindering mobility, the ubiquitous smog corking nostrils and pupils, the soundtrack of horns and unending construction interrupting thoughts, conversations, and concentration.

But all it takes is a one-hour drive to a city like Batroun on the country’s northern coast to make me question the Lebanese normalization of frantic living. The natives of this quiet seaside town seem more than satisfied with their small strip of shore, its nationally famous lemonade, fish restaurants, and pacifying view. And as of last year they’ve added a microbrewery to their list of attributes to celebrate.”

Read the full article here.

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Lebanon’s First Sexologist

My article on the consequences of a widespread lack of sexual health awareness in Lebanon, and the professionals like Sandrine Atallah, the country’s first sexologist, who are trying to remedy it.

“In most of Lebanon’s obstetrics and gynaecology clinics, a single question, only allowing for one of two ostensibly unambiguous answers, is used to elicit a woman’s sexual history — married or single?

A seemingly benign question, it alienates scores of women for whom marriage is not necessarily a prerequisite for engaging in sexual activity — creating an uncomfortable clinical environment in which patients might feel incapable of being forthright with their doctors about their needs and concerns. For not even the Lebanese medical community is free of the stigma shrouding the public discussion of sex in the country. But a handful of professionals such as Sandrine Atallah, the country’s first sexologist, are trying to remedy the lack of sexual health awareness that this reluctance has facilitated, and which has bred detrimental misconceptions about sex.”

Read the full article here.

10 Middle East artists to watch

My list of 10 must-watch Middle Eastern women artists for Al-Monitor.

“One need only scan the list of participating artists in any of the large-scale exhibitions taking place in the Middle East to comprehend the formidable presence of female artists within a regional art scene that has been drawing international acclaim for years. From Bahrain to Morocco, women are experimenting with a diversity of artistic mediums and themes, from photography to performance art to politics to urbanism. Many are leaving the confines of the private studio to cultivate spaces that can support the public consumption and collective production of art in the Middle East.”

Read the full article here.

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MIT alum hopes to spread tech-boom excitement in young, increasingly connected Middle East

My profile of Middle Eastern entrepreneur and investor Hala Fadel for the Boston Globe.

Read the full article here.

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ArabNet showcases ‘transformative force’ of Mideast tech sector

I reported on ArabNet Beirut 2015, one of the largest gatherings of the Middle East’s burgeoning startup industry, for CBC News. The event took place in mid-March.

Read the full article here.

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10 Middle Eastern Writers You Should Know

I put together this list of accomplished female writers from the Middle East for Al-Monitor.

“Sensational stories recycled and propagated by mainstream Western media and Hollywood films have painted a one-dimensional portrait of the Middle Eastern woman as a submissive victim of oppressive patriarchy and religion. But even a rudimentary exploration of the literature through which the region’s female writers have been articulating their personal memories as well as their social observations, critiques and visions for the past half century, would introduce not merely a counternarrative, but an anti-narrative — a literary refusal to whittle down the diversity of experiences lived by Middle Eastern women into a single, neatly defined condition.

In the aftermath of World War II, many of the newly formed Arab states introduced social reforms — such as free, mandatory public education — that enabled women to more easily insert themselves into the male-dominated field of the literary arts. They continue, however, to constitute a minority within the domain, many of them bolstered by a background of privilege. As a result, many of the experiences had by women in the region have yet to find articulation in regional literature.

Both male and female writers in the Middle East have long had to contend with social, political and religious forces that consider some ideas inappropriate for public discussion. Unsurprisingly, however, it has always been more difficult for female writers, often subjected to stricter behavioral codes by family, society and government, to engage with supposed “taboos.” But despite obstacles and limitations, and despite the regional literary scene only being penetrable, for the most part, by a small class of female socio-economic elites, the Middle East has generated a powerful body of female-authored work that collectively provides much-needed historical, socio-political and cultural insight into an obsessively watched but chronically misrepresented part of the world.”

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