Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a concert by koto player Yukiko Matsyama and taiko drummer Tom Kurai. Yukiko shared a song she wrote based on her visit to Manzanar, and spoke about how she believed music could be a great cultural healer. It could maybe even stop war, she said.
Music can offer such a gorgeous and important bridge between cultures. My brother Jon recently won a highly competitive grant from PBS to develop a film about life after September 11th; he is going to travel to the Middle East to interview musicians there. He will bring the musicians to the US to help create dialogue through the power of music. Jon is an amazing guy; his movie, American Bellydancer, opens this week. I can't wait to see it. Here is the poster:
Literature, of course, can also be a great bridge between cultures. This recent article in the Hindustan Times explores how literature in translation has been one of the most important sources of cross cultural understanding between the Arab and Western worlds.
When I think about it, I realize that my new novel, Self Storage, is my attempt to create (or at least begin to create) such a bridge. It is very much a post 9/11 novel; my main character's life collides with her Afghani neighbor's, and things get very complicated. I am still waiting to hear the fate of the novel--hopefully I'll have some news soon...