Today's Blogger of the Week celebrates the work of Jillian C York, our Morocco author, and a regular contributor to Voices without Votes. A freelance writer, blogger, and author of a guidebook to Morocco, Jillian currently lives in Boston, US, after spending two memorable years in Meknes, Morocco, and continues to blog here. Her interests include writing, politics, music, and activism – as well as giving a voice to what citizen journalists are writing about. Here's our interview with Jillian, in which we hope to learn more about her:
What is your educational background?
I have a BA in Sociology from Binghamton University, US, where I also minored in theatre. I focused much of my studies on the sociology of the Middle East and North Africa, writing a thesis for my major on the perception of Arabs in American media. More than anything, I am grateful to my education because it's what brought me to Morocco in the first place. I took a summer Arabic program at Al Akhawayn University, then after returning to the US, spent the next year trying to figure out how to get back.
I am currently working toward my ultimate goal of being able to write full time. Shortly after moving to Morocco, I wrote Culture Smart! Morocco (Random House, 2006) and have published several articles since. Most recently, though, I had the pleasure of teaching English in Morocco for two years, which certainly tops the list in terms of jobs I've had!
Who is Jillian York? What excites you and what annoys you?
I am definitely a type A personality, constantly busy, always looking for more things to do. I get excited about blogging and new media, certainly – I was one of the first to blog in English about Morocco, and during the time that I lived in the country, it was so exciting to see the blogoma (Moroccan blogosphere) constantly growing and blossoming. Blogging is such an incredible outlet; not only because it allows ordinary people to talk about whatever is on their minds, but also because it gives the rest of us insight into another culture (even if that culture isn't so foreign!). As for what annoys me? I could in a number of different directions with this one, but a major one right now is the bias of the American media. Any American who has spent more than a few weeks abroad knows how I feel; Morocco isn't exactly a bastion of free speech, but the access to global news is somehow far better than in the US.
How long have you been blogging and why?
I started in 2005 when I first moved to Morocco and have continued blogging about my adopted country despite having moved back to the US this past August.
How long have you been a member of GVO and why?
Since April 2006 – I was dying to get more involved in the emerging Moroccan blogoma, and so I contacted GVO Regional Middle East and North Africa Editor Amira Al Hussaini and the rest is history.
What are the main issues effecting your blogosphere?
Morocco's blogoma is fortunate in that its writers have relative freedom in the subjects they choose to blog. Unfortunately, Morocco has also experienced some internet censorship, most notably the censure of YouTube (which is now back), Google Earth and Livejournal (a major blogging platform). Another issue facing the blogosphere is the censure of blogs about Western Sahara issues – blocked to silence opposing viewpoints.
What is your most memorable blogging experience?
When Britney Spears considered converting to Islam? Just kidding! My most memorable blogging experience is being at the forefront of Moroccan news when I lived there, particularly when sites like YouTube were being censored – it was great to be able to break news before major news sites did, basing my posts on the bloggers in my region.
How do you spend your free time?
Whenever I have it (and lately, that's not very often), I read. I also (obviously) spend a lot of time online, although it's usually while I'm working, in some capacity.
What is the latest book you have read? Can you share something from it with us?
I'm currently reading Dave Eggers’ You Shall Know Our Velocity! which is very different from his memoir (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius). I've only just started the book, but what I will say is that Eggers is a writer who amazes me on so many levels, particularly in his passion (and compassion) for passing writing on to the next generation.
What do you blog about mostly?
For the past three years, I have blogged about Morocco (at The Morocco Report). Although a lot of what I wrote there was based on my observations and opinions, I also reported and re-reported the news, as well as what other bloggers were talking about. My new blog has a different theme. After blogging about Morocco for nearly three years, I felt that it was time to move on. Although I'll continue to blog at The Morocco Report, my life is now in Boston, and I needed my writing to reflect that.
What are your hopes for Morocco and its blogosphere?
Morocco is an incredible country – in 50 years, it has seen technological developments that took a hundred years elsewhere. What really amazes me is Moroccans’ ability to adapt to that – in eight or so years, the internet has become a huge force there. The past three have seen hundreds of new blogs and forums. While I think that all blogs – and especially those of the blogoma – are valuable, I would love to see more Moroccans using that platform to talk about important issues. Unfortunately, I think that there's a certain fear of using blogs as political (or other) platforms (and rightly so, given the recent case against Fouad Mourtada).
In February, you joined a 10-member GV contingent to WeMedia. Can you tell us about the highlights of your stay at the GVO House and meeting GVers face to face for the first time? How was your experience? Are you looking forward to meeting more GVers soon?
I had a blast at WeMedia! Meeting other GVers for the first time was really surreal…you spend so much time with people virtually that you feel as if you know them. And there were others that I'd never even spoken to online who have become friends. I'm really looking forward to the GV Summit in Budapest this June.
I am really grateful to be a part of Global Voices. I had no idea what a huge project I was getting into when I started writing for GV over a year ago, but I am so glad that I did!