Discover Why Wanting in Arabic Is This Year's Best Transgender Fiction

The Lambda Literary Foundation named Trish Salah's first book, Wanting in Arabic, the best work of transgender fiction produced this year. Read an exclusive excerpt from the book below.



Ghazals in Fugue                    


From her home wander love’s uncanny away, you!
Is it past: whose to tear memory away, you?

Stolen upon thought, "I’ll not see the end of this."
Ya aa’yni, turn your gaze from me away, you.

A girl’s hand may stop unexpected, bleeding over
What, wrest, was—eye to eye, between, a way, you…

Fall mistaking what looks she tosses for salvation.
Beware such boasts, what they give too freely away, you.

Unhinge the doors, with talk of children, your double, war;
Send memory’s limbs flailing. Who cast peace away, you?


Hear the sound of rain, on hotel window, so stark it bleeds
Like waking, like Hitchcock? Blinds so low, it’s too dark to read.

Here, the train breaking haunts, further out, the frame, broke hours ago.
What are Effrit to make twin towers glow, too dark to read?

Disfigured, losing specific dimensions, failing
In their finitude, what world is mirrored, too dark to read?

As fire works, roaming compulsive, the mind makes interior,
What was your house, her tomb, charred terribly, too dark to read.

There your girl becomes pursuit, embers, a route more circuitous
Her elliptical and fraying parabola. Too dark to read

Such hyperbole of desire.  Fire returns void, in its avoidance.
Brute motor repetition writes parables too dark to read.


Into the wilds, some cliché of the wilds… it’s not the war
We flee, north, from Toronto—that year we’re not at war.

Gone to cottage like white folks, and compose queer idylls, break
Our fast at the Colonial, stock up at Nassr; say that’s not war.

With our weight in lebne, mint, parsley, burgle, beans for ful, lamb
For kibeh, we beg no guarantee of country. Anything but war

Until the third bottle of wine, allows someone to ask
If, in Lebanon I am that man, if not, that war,

My father wanted. You want to know what bargains
With snow will I make? Were my cousins not in that war?

Would I not have been with them, at Sabra, at Shatilla?
Naïve to the war, I break all our glasses, this ghazal’s form, smiling.


In the commons we give up on speaking, fall quiet
Cast looks to the mountains; from the pool, all’s quiet.

More to hold us here, than memory, or will, allow.
Lying by, in glassed-off heat, we listen past fall’s quiet

Whispers’ crackle, a jammed radios’ abandon, as mute,
Iraq’s young succumb to deserts “we” let fall...  Quiet

As, when we slump into the sauna, genitals swaddled
White cotton shrouds, all eyes avert. Quietly appalled,

Afraid to see my breasts, yours, to site black dick. In the north
Country, we feel what they fear, the weight of whiteness, falling.


Reading The Book of Suicides                


A change of sex is not a suicide note
Or, it goes across death, to a particular word

Veiled, you lie in the sun, your eyes wet
With what body are you   leaving?

(Turning earth over, a sign, you hope, of dawn.
Sigh for the last words, the night she left behind.)

Suppose, when next we meet you do not know
This face or flesh, suppose my name is changed.

Reincarnated, skipping over death, the lovers.
I know you distrust the tale already.


The third sex is always dead to the first
Transcending, to the second, susceptible.

Where seducing is a virtue of finitude
A rose is kept for your garden.

And wilder growths allow you to imagine
Vast expanse beyond slant pale of headstones

Neither the world nor Ghalib dead, imagine—
Your promise fulfilled, snow rising to heaven.

Roses bloom inward, a miniscule infinity
Bubbles of earth aflame, efflorescent with air.


A change of sex is not a suicide note
What is a crypt? She heard him with his word.

Veiled, crossed out, divide of his mouth still open
She made her up—a language—we can only imagine

For the future, divide of the world still open
Not man or woman then—angelic, childish, feral, undead

Language keeps its secrets, pink tongue roses, blooming
The intoxication of death or you, a body becoming its own

Name or sounding it out, slivers of cool wrists
Broken, inscribed as accident, an accent encrypting

A change of sex, the languish of your shadow.
Or the sounding bell of this word’s breach:

What a sex is, is forever  misled.



Selected from Wanting in Arabic by Trish Salah by permission of TSAR Publications. Copyright 2002, 2013.