My Grandmother (Who Is a Lot Like Coffee)

January 28, 2019
coffee mug in front of a coral background
Art by Kirsten Hemrich

“Arab women are a lot like coffee. strong. refreshing. Roasted until nearly burnt and then marketed as bitter. Expected to keep you going when you can’t do it yourself. Mis-used. Under appreciated.” (Yasmeen AlFaraj, University of California, Berkeley @_alfa_ya)

My grandmother wakes up before the sun. A full night of sleep does not diminish, nor does it puncture, perfectly sculpted cheekbones; never-not-smiling cheekbones; ready-to-meet-the sun cheekbones; cheekbones whose highest points are akin to mountain summits.

 My grandmother is tall, her shoulders narrow, her eyes blue and clear. She awakes at a godly hour; ready for her morning coffee only after her morning invocations. Like her roots, her coffee is Turkish: it is strongly roasted, ground to a deep, brown, earthy powder, then double boiled in a steel kettle. It is poured into a small cup that is met by thin, solemn lips— lips that imprint kisses against the mouth of the four ounce vessel— each sweet kiss traded for a sip of the bitter.

Her days are long; the hot, Middle Eastern sunlight peeks down in unforgiving rays and shafts as her cheekbones stare back daringly, unabashedly: olive undertones assuring that they do not pinken or redden, rather, they deepen in their hues and in their audacity.

 Her days are long, and as long awaited nights fold in, she lays her newly tanned cheeks to rest once more; they are eager to meet the sun again in the morning.

 Once more, before the turn of blue dawn, before the sun, she awakes, ready to trade sweet kisses for sips of bitter.


By Ibtehal Jastaniah

Ibtehal Jastaniah, known to friends and family as Lulu, is a second year. She is hoping to study Global Public Health and English. As an Arab-American, she is passionate about highlighting the underrepresented narratives of Arab women. In her free time she enjoys writing, hanging out with friends, and watching The Bachelor (unironically).

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