16 November 2017

Meet the 2017 Scribe Nonfiction Prize Shortlist – Lur Alghurabi

In the lead up to announcing The 2017 Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers, we’re introducing you to every name and face on the shortlist. These are some of the brightest nonfiction minds in the country and they’re all aged 30 and under. Read their profiles on the Express Media blog to learn more about their writing journeys, love of nonfiction and their tips and tricks to writing the best real-life stories.

Lur Alghurabi, 24, South Australia
Letters from the Grave

How did you begin writing?

After high school I enrolled in an Engineering degree. But after a few months I lost interest, and I started skipping my classes to write journal entries. Someone on the internet said writing made them less upset, so I started writing about all the things that made me upset, and they were right: it made me less upset. I would write one or two thousand words in an hour and delete them all as soon as I was done so no one would read them, not even myself. To me, it was, and still is, a means to therapy. But back then it didn’t matter to me what I was writing, as long as was on the page, and not on my shoulders and on my chest.

Why do you write nonfiction?

Every family has a story too rich to let it go into the grave. It’s dreadful to me to think that if I don’t write down my family’s story, nothing is documented and it will disappear with time. We will forget, and our children: they will never know their place in the world and where (and whom) they come from.  But also, I write because it helps me come to terms with what has happened in my family. What we have been through, I don’t wish it upon anyone. Writing gives me a sense of control over it; trauma, to me, becomes much less paralysing when I choose to narrate it.

Tell us a bit about your submission to the Scribe Prize…

Letters from the Grave is part of my memoir. Each ‘chapter’ is a journal entry from a specific time and date, and the mosaic creates a picture of our life in Iraq and many countries afterwards. The story is told through our relationship with food, with cold water, with passports, school assemblies, funerals, birthday parties, and love stories. I incorporated a lot of our family photos. What we looked like when we laughed, graduated, went on dates, ate cake, carried newborns, or when we swam in the river.

Why did you choose to write on this subject?

In my family, there are many things we do not discuss: depression, displacement, resettlement, and conflict. We still don’t, but since I’ve started writing, that no longer meant they aren’t discussed at all.

Language is empowering. For example, when I came to Australia and learned the word ‘trauma’, I learned that I was carrying trauma, and I could start dealing with it. Dealing with loss, grief, and a broken self have been less difficult once they translated to a story, and people read the story and appreciated it. It is empowering to almost heal in this way through confronting memories I don’t like to have. It makes me happy.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t worry about how they’ll receive it, because you’d worry so much you’d never write. Just write it, and write it as if no one will read it.

Find Lur on Twitter at @lur_ag.

Image by Jonno Revanche.