Epiphany @ 'Noura' - a symbol of hope

What’s it about?

A woman grappling with her dueling American and Iraqi identities.

My experience.

Writer’s note: I (Houssaynatou Barry) gave my ticket to a colleague after I found out that I would not be able to make it to the performance. This post is written by Epiphany Cruz-Maxwell.

At the box office, a staff member mistakenly said that my ticket had already been picked up. However, once I insisted that was impossible, he found the ticket and apologized.

Good start, huh?

As I waited for the show to begin, the aroma of a pine tree wafted through the air. A 10-foot Christmas tree was on the right side of the stage, decorated with warm white lights that intensified throughout the course of the show. Little did I know this particular tree basically set the tone for the production.

This show shocked me because somehow it was able to capture the essence of Noura’s internal battle between her American and Iraqi identities. Noura is a Christian Iraqi refugee, born in Mosul, who resides in New York. She steps outside on a snowy night, cigarette in hand, and opens up her thoughts to us. The audience is able to hear Noura’s mental divide through the echoing of her Arabic and American sides. When her family gathers at the table and says a Christian prayer before dinner, they celebrate their newly minted American citizenship after living in New York for eight years. But, underneath the celebratory smile, Noura is apprehensive — not just about the new American names they’ve adopted, but about the seizing of Mosul by ISIS and the fact that she is losing her connection with her hometown.

Houssaynatou’s note: When my parents received their citizenship three years ago after residing in the U.S. for 20-plus years, they said it was their “greatest achievement.” They could finally call themselves Americans, but at no point did they struggle with their Guinean and American identities. I think the main reason was the fact that they made an effort to remind us where we came from. But I suspect it’s different for those who come from a war-torn country — the memories of your home may not be so great.

Noura yearns to bridge the gap between her American and Iraqi identities by sponsoring a young Iraqi refugee, Maryam. I think many people do things on a whim to satisfy desires in a particular moment. But, over time, they may grow to regret it. That is exactly what happened with Noura. Maryam is a physics student at Stanford who came from humble beginnings as an orphan. As Noura and Maryam get to know each other, their relationship goes through some ups and downs. As that happens, the Christmas tree brightens and dims. The Christmas tree is a symbol of hope for Noura: the desire for her to bridge the gap between her old and new identities.

Personally, I was shocked to see Noura struggling with her identity — especially at her age. I assumed people might have these types of identity issues at a very young age, but over time they would come to realize who they truly were. Unfortunately for Noura, she grapples with this internal war that may never be fully resolved.

Once Maryam’s true identity is revealed (SPOILER: Maryam is actually Noura’s daughter who was given up at birth), the Christmas tree darkens completely. It symbolizes the severing of that bond. The story ends on a cliffhanger with Noura questioning whether she will ever be able to balance her identities. Instead of choosing one culture over another, perhaps she needs to find a way for the cultures to complement each other.

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