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First Tie Your Camel, Then Trust in God: An American Feminist in the Arab World
On a fateful evening in 1978, Chivvis Moore, living as a carpenter in California, stops by the house of an architect friend. “What if I wrote to Hassan Fathy?” Chivvis suggests, eager to meet the Egyptian author of the influential Architecture for the Poor. Less than three months later, Chivvis arrives in Cairo knowing virtually nothing about the culture and religion of the predominantly Muslim Middle East. What begins as a trip to meet Hassan Fathy becomes a 16-year odyssey that stretches from a year working in the shop of a master carpenter in Egypt to fraught years teaching English in Palestine. Offering a portrait of a land and a people not found in newspaper headlines or on television screens, First Tie Your Camel, Then Trust in God humanizes the misunderstandings, misconceptions, and tragedies that arise when we fail to appreciate the humanity at the core of us all.
Gscene August 2016 page 67


FIRST TIE YOUR CAMEL, THEN TRUST IN GOD by Chivvis Moore (North Loop Books).

This is the first hand account and instructive, compelling personal experience of an American lesbian feminist and her travels around the Arabic world.

It’s actually two books in one, the first half looks at her reason for leaving America for a year in the late 1970s; the sudden arrival in an Arabic culture and the slow and sure adaption to a way of life not as alien, oppressive and savage as we’re taught, but one where liberty, life and community have different meanings and different expectations and demands from the people that live with each other.

Moore’s insights can be academic but there are moments which are transcendental; her understanding of how creative people craft and create a healthy culture and how being able to make, meld and elaborate our physical world gives us meaning as people, parents and citizens - a challenge to the manufactured mutterings of consumption that the western world offers. Her arguments are compelling.

Her being a carpenter is a running theme and she works words as she does wood, anticipating knots and grain and knowing how the beauty of something will be revealed when hands have worn a groove. Her prose is comfortable to read even when the subject matter is anything but. Her voice is quiet but persistent. There are plenty of personal moments that convince about the dignity and acceptance of a western feminist lesbian living in an apparently repressive society, but Moore is no idealist and keeps her keen eye on real politics.

The second half of the book takes us into a decade of Moore working in Palestine and confronts us with searing observational honestly. Here Moore bears witness to living in Palestine under an increasingly repressive Israeli occupation and whatever your political views you can’t help but be shocked and moved by these eyewitness accounts of the day-to-day horrors of Palestinian life and simple joys grabbed from adversity. Not an 
easy read, but not an easy subject, Moore gives us her own unfazed clarity of view and guides us into the heart of the community and the way it embraces and occasionally judges her.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a narrative with such force that has made me think so hard about received wisdoms.