Hi! My name is Yousef Elzalabany, and I'm a rising senior in the Near Eastern Studies Department and the Program in Creative Writing. I was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I've always had some sort of interest in writing, with one of my dreams growing up to become a famous author of fiction books. However, at Princeton I have mostly focused on writing poetry, which has been a welcome change in pace from my other coursework. As a student here, you can often find yourself doing a lot of writing that may sharpen your mind but results in a final product that doesn't feel very rewarding. I find writing a poem (or any other creative venture) exercises a very different array of intellectual muscles AND results in an end product that is beautiful and says something no academic paper can -- plus it's fun!
As someone who grew up bilingual and bicultural but feels that being American has disrupted my ability to fully express my Egyptianness/Arabness/Muslimness, I often think in my writing about how to use the English language to reclaim everything that in many ways was stolen by English. I was once told a poet who came to read on campus that once you gain mastery over English and tame it so that you can bend it for your own needs, it will be a wonderful feeling. If you're interested in thinking through this/any other thoughts on art as a venue for personal and collective resistance, feel free to reach out to me!