On Thursday, January 18, Mr. Osama Alomar visited Riverside High School to speak to Mrs. Boots’ World Cultures classes, Mrs. Frank’s English classes, and Mrs. Pinchot’s AP Journalism classes. His visit is thanks to a generous grant from the Riverside Community Education Foundation.
Mrs. Boots’ World Cultures classes are completing a unit on the Middle East, so had plenty of questions for Mr. Alomar about his life in Syria, his opinion of President Assad, and his assessment of the violence in Syria. Mrs. Frank prepared her students by reading a non-fiction piece from the Pittsburgh City Paper (September 20, 2017) about Mr. Alomar and his experience in the USA. They also read some of his work, which is known as “flash fiction,” a genre of very short stories that have meanings like parables. Some of Mr. Alomar’s stories are only one sentence long. Mrs. Pinchot’s class reflected on the censorship which drove Mr. Alomar to publish his books in Lebanon, where control is much less than in Syria.
Mr. Alomar read some of his work for the students. His favorite story he has written is called Bride of the Garbage. A piece called “Knife” follows: He was born with a silver knife in his mouth. And he was its first victim. He told the students that he has written since he was 12, and finds inspiration “in every corner.” His favorite author is Kahlil Gibran, and he is saddened that this philosopher-poet is not taught more in the USA, since he is renowned in the rest of the world. Mr. Alomar said that reading the works of Gibran convinced him he wanted to be a writer, “no matter the money, or lack of money.”
Mr. Alomar is a celebrated author and poet from Syria. He left his homeland in 2008 for “new horizons,” but has been unable to return due to the 2011 revolution, which has since developed into a civil war. One of his deepest regrets is all his possessions he left behind, thinking he would return. They are forever lost to him, and include an unpublished novel and many original manuscripts.
Upon arriving in the United States in 2008, he sought employment unsuccessfully for seven months. Mr. Alomar was ready to give up and return home, when he got a job driving a cab in Chicago. He drove cab for seven years. It was in the front seat of the cab that he and his “best friend” CJ Collins translated his work from Arabic to English. This was accomplished between fares over a period of years.
Currently, Mr. Alomar is a sponsored guest of Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum. He lives on the North Side in the “Poetry House,” and he remarks that many people
come by and take photos of this unusual house. He was first accepted last year for a one-year program with City of Asylum, and was recently extended to two years. For these two years, Mr. Alomar can concentrate on his writing. His housing, medical insurance, and other needs are covered by this non-profit organization. He is working on one novel about the war in Syria, and also a book of meditations which covers his thoughts on life and death, love and hate, happiness and sorrow. He travels next week to Texas for a book reading.
The Riverside library has two works by Mr. Alomar in its collection: Teeth of the Comb (2017) and Fullblood Arabian (2014).