Born in Baghdad to an ancient lineage called the Chaldeans, Weam Namou is an Eric Hoffer award-winning author of 14 books, an international award-winning filmmaker, journalist, poet, and an Ambassador for the Authors Guild of America [Detroit Chapter], the nation’s oldest and largest writing organization. She’s the founder of The Path of Consciousness, a spiritual and writing community, and Unique Voices in Films, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.
After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Wayne State University, Namou traveled the world as she studied fiction and memoir through various correspondence courses, poetry in Prague through the University of New Orleans, and screenwriting at MPI (Motion Picture Institute of Michigan). She learned of ancient philosophies from Indian and Native American teachers, and most recently, from internationally bestselling author and mystic Lynn V. Andrews.
We are thrilled to announce that the Pomegranate audiobook is now LIVE on Audible.com! Sandy, the Narrator, and I, the Author, worked very hard with all our hearts to make this project come to life and available for your enjoyment.
Listening to a book is a different experience than reading one. Hearing the story animates its characters and events. It activates the imagination in even more ways than reading with the eyes, soaking up the text and its nuances more effortlessly. If you think about how old storytelling is, it makes sense! The printing press was only invented just over 580 years ago, but humans have been verbally sharing stories verbally around the fire and the kitchen table for the majority of our existence.
This story has made a strong impression on people. It’s funny, it’s real, and it asks important questions. To give you an idea, our first audiobook reviewer said that it was like gaining access as though “a portal into a community.” The reviewer goes on:
About the book: This book was surprisingly fun. The story progresses quickly, and covers a lot of cultural territory. Some of the details were shocking to me, in a good way. The story veraciously captures the struggle between an individual will and cultural expectations. There were a few things that I did not understand, but the galloping tempo prevented me from getting hung up there.
About the narration: I was nervous at first, as the forward was a little stiff. But within a few minutes of Chapter 1, I knew I could relax and be carried away into the story. The humor in the work is extracted beautifully. The anger is captured precisely. The protagonist’s struggle to find and express her voice makes its way deep into the voice of the narrator in an amazing way. It’s clear that the narrator has “felt these emotions, felt these stories herself”. As a result, she delivers them earnestly. The narrator does a wonderful job remaining consistent between each character voice, which makes tracking dialogue effortless. I am very impressed.
We think it’s worth your time to explore Pomegranate, whether with the audio, ebook or print version!
The neat thing is that if you aren’t an Audible.com member yet, you can get the audiobook for FREE with a 30 day Audible trial.
The births of my children gave me less and less reasons to travel. The pandemic helped me to embrace being home-bound. But now, my children were two thousand miles away and so was the comfortable quiet solitude of my home. It was time that I take the next step in my life.
It was my first trip to the Krotona Institute in Ojai, California, where a small group of us were there to take on various projects that would keep us busy for the next year. I was going to take a series of related classic texts written in the early 1900s and produce them into audiobooks. Audiobook narration was that “next step in my life” and I was in the middle of producing Weam Namou’s book “Pomegranate,” which had to take a back seat while on this trip.
On the Krotona campus, the first early morning was still and chilly. The rest of the residents were tucked away in their respective adobe-styled dwellings, but the birds were actively singing and fluttering about. Michigan’s bitter January weather was behind me, but I was grateful on this first morning in the mild winter of the Ojai Valley that I had my light winter jacket where I could hide my hands away.
I walked through the Sanctuary of Connections on the campu, a garden for contemplation. Step by step, my eyes sensed the newness in my surroundings. At the start of the path a statue of a Lioness stood to greet those who entered. Weathered, but revered, various offerings were placed around her majestic stance. The plaque on her throne read:
“Touching the forehead of the lioness
Speaking the name of one who suffers
Forming the connection to nature
Embrace healing powers.”
Then I found I was moving to a statue to symbolize a world religion, and another statue and another. Great traditions that hope to uplift humanity: Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Taoism, Sufism, Indigenous traditions, Hinduism, Theosophy, Judaism, Baha’i, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Sikhism, Confucianism, and the teachings of Krishnamurti.
As I approached the end of the path, a small shining sphere caught my attention and brought me closer to the tree from which it hung. I felt a deep connection to the tree before I realized what I was seeing and sensed it pulling me in, rather than being pushed by my own curiosity. The sphere glistened within its small, bare, and modest foliage, the branches of the tree thin and the leaves spare. I walked closer, still not knowing what it was. There it was, the smallest pomegranate I have ever seen, and the only one I have ever seen on an actual tree. The fruit’s skin had burst open, and its seeds were exposed.
I was surprised, no, I was astonished. There I was, experiencing a parallel path with the fruit staring at me and my own life, and that moment moved the lines to create a clear intersection.
After deep soul searching in 2021, I realized that I wanted to shift away from teaching Yoga full-time to narrating audiobooks. It was very much a “mid-life crisis” experience and through deep inner listening and self-observation, I began to realize this was the next step. Although, when do we actually truly “know” this sort of thing? All we can do is be open to continue learning about what the steps might be. For instance, when I began, I thought I would only be able to work on non-fiction books since I don’t read fiction and I’m not a trained actor. And then it occurred to me that I was avoiding the things I had, once upon a time, loved to immerse myself in, but stopped doing when I was prohibited from going away to college to study acting. I was avoiding fiction and I was avoiding acting. When Weam was impressed with my initial reading of her book in October 2021, I realized that I couldn’t, and shouldn’t, avoid either one anymore.
And standing there in the Sanctuary of Connections, looking at the little ruby red pomegranate, I understood that the steps I have taken through the garden of my life are moving me in the direction that I am to go.
As a second-generation Chaldean-American immigrant, Weam’s book spoke to me, a book which I know quite intimately after multiple readings, recordings, and analysis. In portraying the characters, I was eventually able to incorporate their personalities within my own being, bringing me closer to these cultural roots.
But more than that, the book spoke to me on a spiritual level, one that goes beyond imagined lines of nation, culture, religion, and gender. Immersing myself in it, I was able to incorporate the character’s souls in my own being. Their desires and struggles brought me to the Sanctuary of Connections within my own heart. Weam’s experiences and the story she shares with us, helps us to see that these desires and struggles transcend all the societal labels, these imaginary lines, that we are exposed to everyday which make us feel separate from each other.
For ages we have been trying to teach each other that we are all One, through traditions, religions, stories, and laws. And yet, it seems that these teaching tools, in our limited ignorance, have been used to create divisiveness in our hearts and minds. But there is hope. And beautiful stories like “Pomegranate,” which holds within its center the Sanctuary of Connections, will help us create a future of Unity instead.
Author Bio: Sandy Naimou has a B.A. in psychology & M.L.A. in women’s and gender studies. She teaches Yoga, serves on the board for The Theosophical Society in Detroit, and, as you already know, is an aspiring Audiobook Narrator.
For Women’s History Month, I interviewed women of various backgrounds who are making changes for themselves and others as they use their voices and make their dreams come true. They included:
Zilka Joseph – an Indian American and Bene Israel poet whose new book, “Our Beautiful Bones,” was nominated for a PEN and Pushcart prize. Watch the interview
Zoe Moore – an independent Hospitality EDI Strategic Consultant who engages leaders of organizations through her speaking, writing, educational courses and consulting. Watch the interview
Vicki Dobbs – the founder of Wisdom Evolution and head cheerleader for The You First Revolution. Watch the interview
Natally Boutros – a first-generation Chaldean American born Actress who was raised in Michigan and co-stars in my upcoming feature film, “Pomegranate.” Watch the interview
Some time ago I was looking for a quote on the freedom of speech, and I came across this:
“I may not agree with what you have to say,
but I will defend to death your right to say it.”
I thought this quote, cited as something written by the French writer and philosopher Voltaire, was perfect! As I dug a little deeper, however, I discovered that the quote was actually misattributed to Voltaire. “Again?!” I thought to myself. This is not the first time a quote written by a woman was attributed to a man. The phrase is that of an English author named Evelyn Beatrice Hall. She wrote it in her book “Friends of Voltaire” (1906) as she imagined what Voltaire might have thought.
This powerful phrase not only shows the importance of the First Amendment, our right to freedom of speech, but it’s interesting how sometimes we take a quote, a history, a narrative and run with it – only to discover years or decades or thousands of years later that it is not entirely true. A good example of this are the legendary women of ancient Mesopotamia, whose stories were buried, literally, until archaeologists began to dig them up in the 1900s.
One such story that emerged was that of Enheduanna, who historians now recognize as the first writer in recorded history. She is dubbed the “Shakespeare of Sumerian literature” and wrote and taught about three centuries before the earliest Sanskrit texts, 2000 years before Aristotle, and 1,700 before Confucius. Yet hardly anyone has heard of her, aside from those historians that take the accuracy of history seriously. What a missed opportunity for our educational system not to be aware of Enheduanna’s works and include them, like Shakespeare, into their curriculum.
We can use our efforts to silence peoples’ voices, but it will return in different forms and be ten times more powerful. Or we can learn to listen, to truly listen to others, to the sun and the moon, and to our animals. Listening is not a chance to interject own views, or to force or manipulate someone to think, speak, or act the way we perceive is “correct.” Our views and feelings are not always “correct.” There is a lot in the universe that we can learn from, but we won’t be able to do that, to grow and evolve, if we prevent others from speaking, and instead constantly interject our rights and wrongs.
When we truly listen, we give ourselves an opportunity to hear the things we are afraid of, so that we may heal ourselves and those around us, so that we may transform our relationships and experiences into something beautiful.
Choose someone you disagree with and write down ten of their good qualities. If your mind automatically jumps to, “This person doesn’t have ten good qualities, no way!” Ask yourself what are you resisting? Why are you afraid to look at their other side?
After you do that, write ten things you dislike about yourself and why. When you complete that list, decide how you will change at least one of those ten things so that you can live a healthier lifestyle – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually.
This exercise will help you realize that each of us has a lifetime of work on ourselves let alone trying to change someone else. In focusing on what we are thinking, saying, and doing, we are listening to the most important person – ourselves – and then we will have mastered the art of listening to others.
Each one of us has an inner power which can be honored through listening. True listening involves actively paying attention to the words and sounds that you hear, to absorb their meaning and understand the speaker’s narrative and story.
In the month of February, I interviewed the following talented and inspiring people:
* Jamal Ali, documentary filmmaker and aircraft engineer who was awarded the Outstanding Refugee Entrepreneurship Award by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Watch the interview
* Jan Hadley, a Christian grandma and author committed to sharing the Lord’s love. Watch the interview
* Majid Aziz, an Iraqi-American who escaped extremists twice through poetry. Watch the interview
* Yasmine Mohammed, an author and activist who had the courage to escape her abusive life, tell her story, and help others. Watch the interview
What do these people have in common, aside from talent and hard work? Courage. The courage to use communication as both an art and a tool for change.
Some of my readers have described my books as a “recipe for life.” My former New York agent, Frances Kuffel, and an Iraqi American critic, said about my writing for my first book The Feminine Art that the style resembled that of Jane Austen. For Austen, the novel was her chosen tool in the struggle to reform humanity. While she mixed satire with tenderness, she focused on the emotional authenticity of her characters. She didn’t write in a way that would alienate people with intimidating language or lofty morals and themes. Through her novel, she attempted to make people less selfish and more reasonable, more dignified and sensitive to the needs of others. Her stories were about recoiling from greed, arrogance and pride and being drawn to goodness within ourselves and others. She was a true feminist way before “Feminism” even existed. She made women “think.” So I see how we are similar.
From early on in my career, I have followed Dr. Joseph Murphy’s three steps to success (written in The Power of Your Subconscious Mind):
Find out the thing you love to do, then do it.
Specialize in some particular branch of work and know more about it than anyone else.
You must be sure that the thing you want to do does not rebound to your success only. Your desire must not be selfish; it must benefit humanity.
There are a lot of big issues happening in the world right now, most of which we have no creative control over. We have the choice to work on what we can control, which is ourselves, and to plant seeds of beauty and joy, in order to create a new reality, one that is absent of the continuous patterns of war, violence, and conflict. Unfortunately, many people today are choosing to silence or even punish and hurt anyone who opposes their opinion – even if it’s a type of artform – rather than communicate with them. This type of behavior is dangerous, and it leads to loss of relationship, inner turmoil, trauma, violence and potentially even war.
Words have power; verbal as well as nonverbal communication are both vital, both healing art forms. I encourage you to use them to transform your life and the lives of others.
khalil murrell grew up in Camden, NJ, wedged between a meat factory, Walt Whitman’s house and the county jail. He has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and ran programs for the Dodge Poetry Festival & Program for many years. He now works in educational leadership, and writes poetry and essays on race, racism and masculinity. khalil currently lives in Newark, where he’s improving his Spanish and dreams of South America.
Ann Esshaki is a Chaldean-American writer and spoken-word performer. She studied at Eastern Michigan University where she earned her M.A. of Creative Writing and Wayne State University where she earned her B.A. of English. During her years at Wayne State, she performed at numerous open mic events including the “Women in Hip-Hop” event hosted by 5EGallery on Tuesday’s at the Old Miami. In 2012, she was personally invited by Kem, Grammy-nominated R&B singer, to perform at his Mack & Third event. More recently, she has published Kaldani, a book of poetry about the Genocide and Diaspora of Chaldeans (minority Christians from Iraq), which is available on Amazon. She is passionate about sharing the history, culture, and language that uniquely belongs to Chaldeans.
Hiba Dagher is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, pursuing a degree in English & Ethnic Studies. She is the founder of Hikayat, an organization that celebrates and centers artists, writers, and creatives from the SWA/NA region and its diaspora. She is the recipient of two Hopwood awards, and her work has been featured in the Shuruq writing showcase, Xylem literary magazine, Cafe & the Inside Out anthology. You can find her @mtnsdaughter on Twitter.
A union organizer, human rights activist, workforce policy expert and green energy entrepreneur, Congressman Andy Levin has spent his career fighting for an equitable and inclusive future for all people. He’s bringing that fight to Congress as the proud representative for Michigan’s 9th District. Andy has been advocating for working families since the 1980s, when he organized hundreds of health care workers for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
After working with Haitian immigrant workers, Andy co-founded an organization to assist immigrants with challenges posed by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Continuing his work to strengthen organized labor, Andy worked in Washington, D.C. as a staff attorney to the presidential Commission on the Future of Worker-Management Relations and also in the secretary’s office of the U.S. Department of Labor. From 1995-2006, he served as Assistant Director of Organizing at the national AFL-CIO, where he created and ran Union Summer, helped many unions with collaborative organizing campaigns around the country, and created and led the Voice@Work Campaign, which organized the national movement to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
Andy took his advocacy work to the Michigan state government, where he created and ran the state’s No Work Left Behind initiative that helped more than 160,000 unemployed and underemployed Michiganders go back to school during the Great Recession. On a mission to unite sustainability and workforce development, Andy also helped create Michigan’s Green Jobs Initiative in 2008 and the Green Jobs Report in 2009. Andy went on to create the Michigan Academy for Green Mobility Alliance (MAGMA), which trained hundreds of unemployed and incumbent engineers to electrify cars. In 2011, Andy founded Levin Energy Partners LLC as an entrepreneurial force to help shape Michigan’s and America’s energy future. Andy created and ran a statewide market to finance clean energy building improvements called Lean & Green Michigan, which has become one of the most innovative Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs in the US. In 2018, Andy’s program helped a wide variety of building owners initiate $17,900,000 in clean energy projects. Andy has worked on human rights for decades, including doing legal work for asylum seekers in the US and investigating and reporting on human rights abuses in Haiti, China and Tibet. Born in Detroit and raised in Berkley, MI, Andy is an honors graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School and holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan in Asian Languages and Cultures, where he was a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities. He has long been active in the spiritual and social justice life of the Jewish community. He has also learned and worked in Haitian Creole and Tibetan and also studied French, Sanskrit, and Hindi.
Ahmed Al Mamoori is an archaeologist and is the Director of Basrah Museum, housed in a former palace of Saddam Hussein. Ahmed is the inspector of antiquities responsible for relations and negotiations with landowners and other interested parties. He oversees the survey and inspections of sites and monuments in preparation of the new Basrah Museum.
He received his education at Babylon University with a BA in Ancient Archeology. In 2019, he became director of Basrah Cultural Museum. His publications include The Architectural Styles of the Church of Mar Gurgis, Erbil published in the Daily Newspaper in 2018. Ahmed has received additional training for the maintenance of cultural heritage during a course in Beijing, and he has participated in several archaeological fieldworks at the University of Manchester, the University of Wales, and other institutions.
Rev. Michael Bazzi (Emeritus) was born in northern Iraq in the beautiful city of Tilkepe, 10 kilometers north of Mosul. He was ordained a Catholic priest in Baghdad in 1964. He later went to Rome where he earned a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Theology in 1974 from the Lateran University. He also has degrees in mass media and group dynamics.
That same year, 1974, Fr. Michael came to the United States and began serving as a priest in the Green Bay Diocese in Wisconsin. He also began what was to become a lifelong love of teaching the Scriptures and the Aramaic language by teaching workshops throughout the region
Fr. Michael served a central role in establishing three Chaldean Catholic parishes in the United States: in Michigan, and California. Since 1985, Fr. Michael has served at St. Peters Catholic Church in El Cajon. In 2015, Fr. Michael was made Pastor Emeritus at St. Peter’s Cathedral.
He is currently in his thirty-first year as a Professor of Aramaic at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon. Between the college and his parish, Fr. Michael teaches more than 100 Aramaic students a year.
Fr. Michael has authored ten books, five of which focus on the Aramaic language: Read and Write Aramaic in the Modern Chaldean Dialect, Beginners Handbook of the Aramaic Chaldean Alphabets, Aramaic Language Chaldean Dialogue, The Advanced Handbook of Modern Aramaic Language Chaldean Dialect Vol. II, and Classical Aramaic, Elementary Book I, which he co-authored with well-known Bible scholar, Dr. Rocco Errico. Two of his books focus on the Chaldean people and their heritage: Chaldeans Present and Past and Who Are the Chaldeans? Two books which will be published by Let in the Light within the next year, deal with Scriptural teaching: Teach Yourself the Bible: The Pentatuch (Torah) and Teach Yourself the Bible: Matthew’s Good News. His final book, Tilkepe: Past and Present, is a fascinating compilation of his original research on his hometown of Tilkepe and is written in both English and Arabic.
Fr. Michael has led numerous tours of the Middle East. In 2010, the San Diego Law Enforcement Officials named him their Citizen of the Year.