Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Weam Namou Is Helping To Change Our World

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Don’t give your power away to others — meaning don’t depend on others for your success, whether in your personal or work life. You’re responsible for the seeds you plant into the world.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Weam Namou.

Weam Namou is an Eric Hoffer award-winning author of 15 books, an international award-winning documentary filmmaker, journalist, poet, and an Ambassador for the Authors Guild of America [Detroit Chapter], the nation’s oldest and largest writing organization. She just completed her first feature narrative film, Pomegranate. Weam is the Executive Director of the Chaldean Cultural Center, which houses the first and only Chaldean Museum in the world.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born in Baghdad, Iraq to an ancient lineage called the Chaldeans, Neo-Babylonians who still speak Aramaic (the language of Jesus). At the age of ten, I emigrated with my family to the US, settling in Michigan where there was a large population of Middle Easterners and where my oldest brother had settled with his wife and children. I loved my childhood until I realized as an adult how much the oppressive authoritarian atmosphere of my birthland had traumatized me.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

At age nine, I read my first novel, Gone with the Wind, in Arabic. We were living in Amman, Jordan, awaiting a visa for the US because during the Baath Party, you could not get a visa to the US from Iraq. I immediately connected with Scarlett Ohara’s southern charm and her tribe, which in many ways resembled mine. That novel gave me the impression that American women wore huge puffy dresses, said “sir” and “madam,” had extravagant barbecues broken up by extravagant naps, and were waited on twenty-four hours a day. Seeing how enthralled I was with the novel my siblings took me to a movie theater for the first time to watch Gone with the Wind with Arabic subtitles.

When we arrived in Michigan, I’d expected it to look like Scarlett’s Tara, a fictional plantation near Atlanta, Georgia. But Michigan in the 1980s was not Georgia in the 1860s. Still, Gone with the Wind planted the seed in my mind that in America, women can be high-spirited, determined, brave, and self-centered. They can make their own way. I think that subconsciously knowing this helped me take a lot of courageous actions in my life as an adult.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Starting out, I scrambled for the story that resembled commercial bestsellers in bookstores but thank goodness, my first teacher/editor geared me to focus on the treasure within my own history, culture, and community. Imagine if, for instance, I would’ve attempted to write Gone with the Wind Part 2 as an Iraqi American who had never set foot in the South. Through the years, I learned that part of the beauty in writing is exploring and discovering who you are and the wonderful mysterious world that you live in.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

People say we’re on the verge of facing extinction. Most assume we are already extinct or melted into other groups like butter. Christians read about us in the Bible and passionately preach about us behind podiums in churches, but they do not recognize us when we stand face-to-face. To them, we look and feel intriguing and fantastical, tucked far away in ancient books. By “we” I mean the Chaldeans, a people that have over five thousand years of fascinating history. In ancient times Chaldea was part of Mesopotamia, known as “the cradle of civilization” and currently modern-day southern Iraq, where writing, the wheel, and the first cities developed around 3500 BC. It is the setting for much of the Old Testament, including the Garden of Eden, the birth of Adam and Eve, and Prophet Abraham. Several creation stories originated from that land, including the theory that the gods who descended from the heavens to Earth were actually alien visitors whose superior technology surpassed anything seen before or since then.

For over five thousand years, as kingdoms rose and fell, empires expanded and contracted, and outsiders conquered and were repelled, the Chaldean people and their counterparts who have historically made tremendous contributions to human civilization, have greatly diminished in Iraq. Continuous wars and genocide over the centuries have taken their toll. The most current genocidal atrocities have occurred as recently as 2014, when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces spread across northern Iraq, targeting various ethnic and religious groups including the Yazidis, Shia Muslims, Assyrians, and Chaldeans, expanded the Chaldean diaspora even further.

We are the minority of a minority of a minority, but our stories deserve to be heard, and there’s no better place to tell them than from here, Michigan, where now resides the largest population of Chaldeans in the world, at over 180,000.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

My first chapter is called “My Unexpected French Guests.” It’s the story of French filmmakers who came to the United States in 2013 to film Iraqi Americans for a documentary called My Beloved Enemy: Iraqi American Stories. They contacted me looking for a woman I’d written about a year prior, Warina Zaya Bashou who at 111 years old became the second oldest person to be granted a US citizenship. Warina had passed away so they ended up interviewing my mom who shared the story of how she received her U.S. citizenship in her mid-sixties, a tremendous accomplishment for her having never gone to school.

Five months later, the filmmakers showed the documentary at Visa pour L’Image, the premiere International Festival held in Perpignan, France. The director Claire told me, “Oh Weam, your mother up there on the screen made a real impact. The audience loved and applauded her.” 

Her words further illuminated what I had begun to understand about my mother, now that I myself was a wife and mother. This woman had deep tribal and ancestral powers that few people understood. She had impacted not only the lives of her twelve children and nearly two dozen grandchildren, but her story had landed in France and later traveled the world through the internet.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

Over the decades, there have been many “aha moments” including in 2014 when ISIS attacked and destroyed our ancestral villages. Two specific incidents that happened more recently and locally further pushed me to pursue the documentation and preservation of our stories as well as the Aramaic language. I was visiting the library archivist at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Michigan. The archivist’s husband was an expert in the Talmud. Certain parts of the Bible were written in Aramaic, such as the books of Daniel and Ezra, as was the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds. Yet the archivist had no clue that Chaldeans still spoke Aramaic. She was stunned and so was I, both of us for different reasons. Another time I was translating for a young Yemini Muslim woman at a hospital, one whose name was Injeel (Bible). They were absolutely surprised to hear I spoke a different language, one that belonged to Christians. They asked me to speak, and I did, and they were in awe. In both cases, I realized that if we don’t tell our stories, who will?

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Before COVID-19, I was going to schools to give presentations about the Chaldeans, from ancient times to modern day. I was very touched by the elementary and junior high school students who would approach me enthusiastically to emphasize that the land I was talking about is where their parents and grandparents are from. They were seeing a representation of themselves they had not seen before, one I never saw growing up. One student especially touched my heart. He was a big kid, the biggest one in his class, and sat in the front row watching with eyes wide open and an excited smile. After my one-hour presentation was over, one of the teachers approached me to thank me, adding that since I had that big kid’s attention for so long, I’d done a great job. “We can’t get him to focus for more than five minutes!” he said.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. Protect freedom of speech so that everyone can tell their stories and not only the popular minorities whose viewpoints collaborate with the political atmosphere of the time. This is especially important for communities such as mine who come from oppressive totalitarian regions and don’t want to re-experience such oppression.
  2. The Middle Eastern community is underrepresented and misunderstood and one of the reasons for that is many of the institutions, including the book, film, and media industry that encourage diversity lean toward their limited version and their own interpretation of diversity.
  3. People from MENA (Middle East and North Africa) are undercounted because in the Census, they are classified as “white.” In 2020 in Michigan, there was the option of writing “Chaldean” for your family’s ethnic background to ensure the community receives an accurate count. Since Chaldeans are in diaspora, more similar efforts here and abroad could help us get a better perspective of the community that actually exists here in the United States.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership requires a lot of responsibility that includes patience, strength, the ability to treat people fairly, and to make tough decisions for the benefit of the greater good, even if others consider it otherwise. It’s giving 150 percent commitment. An example is when COVID-19 hit and like other non-essential businesses we closed the doors of the Chaldean Cultural Center, where I’m the executive director. The doors closed but not the business. The work continued, oftentimes doubling as we tried to find funding and online programs that would keep us operating and relevant.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You can break all the literary rules and still have an amazing literary career!
  2. Don’t give your power away to others — meaning don’t depend on others for your success, whether in your personal or work life. You’re responsible for the seeds you plant into the world.
  3. In silence and confidence shall be your strength — you have to be still and listen. Sometimes the best way to do anything is to keep your head down, look within, and move forward
  4. Maintaining a well-balanced point of view in the world keeps you focused, healthy, and productive.
  5. You can do it alone.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“When you’re not concerned with succeeding, you can work with complete freedom.” Larry David

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’d love to sit with Oprah Winfrey, because she appreciates books and was always supportive of women, especially minority women who are truly underrepresented in the media, film, and publishing industries.

How can our readers further follow your work online?



Tiktok: Namou





This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Weam Namou Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.