Living Tribal in a Democracy

“You’ve moved away from each other. You’ve torn apart your families, disassembled your smaller communities in favor of huge cities. In these big cities, there are more people, but fewer ‘tribes’, groups, or clans where members see their responsibility as including the responsibility for the whole. So, in effect, you have no elders. None at arm’s reach in any event.”

Neal Donald Walsh

I grew up dismissing the value of what my ancestry had to offer me, which was overshadowed by a patriarchal system that defines women from that point of view.  I was influenced by a young and modern generation that assumed they had life figured out, and as a result, tended to ignore the older generation’s way of thinking.

But shortly after I became a mother, things changed. I began searching into my personal genealogy and quickly became fascinated by what I discovered about my ancestors’ cultural identity, my “tribe” whose tribal ways date back thousands of years. Within a decade, I awoke to answers I’d been looking for: Who am I?  Who are my people? I already knew where I came from – Iraq, but the physical distance between that place and myself and the human misery associated with it, kept me from truly understanding and appreciating its ancient history, culture, and language.

My mother and I

My research shed light on my people, the Chaldeans, an indigenous Aramaic-speaking group whose lineage dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, and it shifted my views. In television and movies, tribal lifestyles are stereotyped as backwards or romanticized as mysterious and belonging to uncontacted tribes. I soon realized that if not documented, the rewarding side of this ancient tradition will be wasted. So in 2007, I began filming a documentary that included interviews and archival footage. I  interviewed my mother, sisters, nieces, cousins, and uncle’s wives about how it feels, as women, to live tribally in a democracy. They shared their perspectives, how, despite their assimilation to the westerner lifestyle, they continue to be connected to their instinctual tribal ways that most people repress in civilized life. They embodied an East-West wisdom that we are all in need of today. I called the documentary Living Tribal in a Democracy. 

Over a decade has passed since I began the documentary. Between raising my children, working on various creative projects, and caring for my elderly mother who lived with us, I worked on it sporadically. After my mother passed away in February 2019, I screened and discussed a ten-minute segment of my documentary at Wayne State University at an event called Creative Many. The story received positive feedback and the organizers encouraged me to continue with the project. That’s when I realized it was time to revisit and complete the work. The community’s cultural identity endangered, I felt it especially important to systematize the memories of its people and heritage.

This is when I realized that the story also needs to be written into a book that, similar to the documentary, explores the role that ancient Mesopotamia played in the birth of our contemporary culture. In this book, I show that, although women played a major role in building the cradle of civilization, the rulers of that region tried to destroy/hide that knowledge. This great loss has had consequences for the world. 

The book raises the following questions, which I myself, as someone living tribal in a democracy, struggled with for decades and went to great lengths to find the answers: Are tribal societies models for future societies? How can tribalism and democracy coexist? Would it do the world good to return to some of the old ways, with smaller communities, a higher regard for feminine sacredness, the family system, and the elderly? How can we learn from the ancients, who are often romanticized as warriors or noble savages and we assume live in faraway or remote lands, in the jungles of Peru or in restricted areas such as Indian reservations, and neglect to see their presence in our backyard? Are we aware they do live with us here today? What was the role of women in ancient Mesopotamia, where once upon a time, kings attributed their right to rule through their official marriage to the goddess?

My mother and her great grandson, Mateo

Some of this material became the topic of my book Mesopotamian Goddesses. The rest I bundled up in my upcoming book Little Baghdad: A Memoir About an Indigenous People in an American City, which will be published by the end of this year. As for the documentary, the completion and release of that project is still to be determined.  Meanwhile, it’s shelved among my umpteen projects that want to bring to memory the wisdom and importance of ancient ways which revered nature, feminine sacredness, and community. 

Once someone asked me why I felt I needed to write so many books. I thought it was a strange question. Would someone ask a surgeon why there was a need to perform operations on a regular basis or a teacher, or any other profession? Still, I reflected on that question and realized that part of the joy in writing my stories is the self-discovery that occurs in the process. How can you connect to the power of your own lineage and discover the richness, beauty and wisdom as well as the wounds and traumas that lie there? Your lineage doesn’t have to be physical heredity, but can be a spiritual lineage. Looking at your heritage will help you come to terms with and understand who you really are, what role you play in the story you’re in, and how to change, if you so desire. 


Every month, I interview remarkable individuals on a weekly basis for the Virtual Discussion Series in partnership with Unique Voices in Films, the Chaldean Cultural Center, CMN TV and U of M [Detroit Center].

Check out my YouTube channel where you can watch the interviews live and subscribe. Be sure to set reminders/alerts so you can stay updated on Live and uploaded content.

You can also now find me on Tik Tok, where I’m letting loose and sharing morsels of my life.

Partaking in Others’ Act of Power

I have been enjoying listening to audiobooks for years, imagining the day one of my fourteen books would be available in this format. Then one day out of the blue, my niece Sandy asked if she could create a sample audiobook narration  from my book Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School. I thought this was a lovely idea and gave her the go-ahead. When she sent the audio for my approval, I was surprised. I wasn’t expecting her voice to be so engaging and professional in its delivery. 

Through our conversations, I learned about her earlier interests in theater and acting and her current desire to shift careers from a yoga instructor to an audiobook narrator. The stars having aligned, as they say, I asked if she would like to narrate Pomegranate.  She was excited about the opportunity but had her reservations, since she hadn’t yet narrated an entire book and there was a lot involved, such as numerous male and female characters of various age groups and ethnicities. But I have a knack for discovering talent – it’s all around me actually – and I said, “Let’s give it a try.”

The time, effort, coaching, proper recording space and equipment, and the ability to self-direct as well as receive direction from me, created a priceless experience for both of us and a lovely audiobook. What was amazing is that ACX, the Audible.com platform, approved it from the first get-go which says a lot about Sandy’s professionalism. (Tune in on June 30th when I’ll be interviewing Sandy and she’ll discuss the process – see info. below). So far we’ve had wonderful feedback, the story resonating with listeners because it’s funny, it’s real, and it asks important questions. 

One of the first things I learned from my four-year apprenticeship in Lynn V. Andrews’ mystery school is the Act of Power, a transformation practice to help you reach your dreams. This practice propels all my projects, but particularly Pomegranate. The most magical part about it is that when you help another with their Act of Power then the blessings are doubled and tripled – as was the case with me and Sandy working together. 

Do you want to partake in our act of power? Since we just announced the release of the audiobook on May 25, it would be so meaningful if you can take a listen to the 5 hour 25 minute book on Audible – the 525 is pure coincidence 🙂 – and leave an honest review. It would be a great help in getting the word out. You can click the image or link below to get to it.

If you don’t have an Audible membership, you can get the audiobook for FREE with a 30-day Audible trial.

Just CLICK HERE TO GO TO AUDIBLE, start the trial process, and get the Pomegranate audiobook!

Thank you so much in advance and we hope you enjoy the book!

And if you listen and enjoy it, please tell a friend or two about it!



Every month, I interview four remarkable individuals on a weekly basis for the Virtual Discussion Series in partnership with Unique Voices in Films, the Chaldean Cultural Center, CMN TV and U of M [Detroit Center].

Check out my YouTube channel where you can watch the interviews live and subscribe. Be sure to set reminders/alerts so you can stay updated on Live and uploaded content.

You can also now find me on Tik Tok, where I’m currently running a series on Mesopotamian Goddesses.

HERE’S THE GUEST LINE-UP FOR JUNE 2022:

Honoring Other Narratives

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. 

I wrote extensively about Enheduanna and other ancient women and goddesses of that region in my book, “Mesopotamian Goddesses: Unveiling Your Feminine Power.”

This disk was found in the temple of Nanna's consort, Nin-gal (Great Lady), and dates to around 2300 BCE. It depicts Enheduanna, the world's first recorded author, daughter of Sargon of Akkad and high priestess of the moon god at Ur.
This disk was found in the temple of Nanna’s consort, Nin-gal (Great Lady), and dates to around 2300 BCE. It depicts Enheduanna, the world’s first recorded author, daughter of Sargon of Akkad and high priestess of the moon god at Ur. 

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. 

Exercise: 

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.

Check out my YouTube channel to learn about this week’s guest, who I’ll be interviewing live. Subscribe to my channel and set reminders/alerts so you can stay updated on Live and uploaded content.

We are celebrating Arab American Heritage Month during April.

Here’s the guest line-up for April: