Read A Country Called Amreeka: Arab Roots, American Stories by Alia Malek Online


Among the surfeit of narratives about Arabs that have been published in recent years, surprisingly little has been reported on Arabs in America -- an increasingly relevant issue. This book is the most powerful approach imaginable: it is the story of the last forty-plus years of American history, told through the eyes of Arab Americans. It begins in 1963, before major federAmong the surfeit of narratives about Arabs that have been published in recent years, surprisingly little has been reported on Arabs in America -- an increasingly relevant issue. This book is the most powerful approach imaginable: it is the story of the last forty-plus years of American history, told through the eyes of Arab Americans. It begins in 1963, before major federal legislative changes seismically transformed the course of American immigration forever. Each chapter describes an event in U.S. history -- which may already be familiar to us -- and invites us to live that moment in time in the skin of one Arab American. The chapters follow a timeline from 1963 to the present, and the characters live in every corner of this country.These are dramatic narratives, describing the very human experiences of love, friendship, family, courage, hate, and success. There are the timeless tales of an immigrant community becoming American, the nostalgia for home, the alienation from a society sometimes as intolerant as its laws are generous. A Country Called Amreeka's snapshots allow us the complexity of its characters' lives with an impassioned narrative normally found in fiction.Read separately, the chapters are entertaining and harrowing vignettes; read together, they add a new tile to the mosaic of our history. We meet fellow Americans of all creeds and colors, among them the Alabama football player who navigates the stringent racial mores of segregated Birmingham, where a church bombing wakes a nation to the need to make America a truly more equal place; the young wife from Ramallah -- now living in Baltimore -- who had to abandon her beautiful home and is now asked by a well-meaning American, "How do you like living in an apartment after living in a tent?"; the Detroit toughs and the potsmoking suburban teenagers, who in different decades become politicized and serious about their heritage despite their own wills; the homosexual man afraid to be gay in the Arab world and afraid to be Arab in America; the two formidable women who wind up working for opposing campaigns in the 2000 presidential election; the Marine fighting in Iraq who meets villagers who ask him, "What are you, an Arab, doing here?" We glimpse how America sees Arabs as much as how Arabs see America. We revisit the 1973 oil embargo that initiated the American perception of all Arabs as oil-rich sheikhs; the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis that heralded the arrival of Middle Eastern Islam in the American consciousness; bombings across three decades in Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, and New York City that bring terrorism to American soil; and both wars in Iraq that have posed Arabs as the enemies of America.In a post-9/11 world, Arabic names are everywhere in America, but our eyes glaze over them; we sometimes don't know how to pronounce them or understand whence they come. A Country Called Amreeka gives us the faces behind those names and tells the story of a community it has become essential for us to understand. We can't afford to be oblivious....

Title : A Country Called Amreeka: Arab Roots, American Stories
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781416589723
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Country Called Amreeka: Arab Roots, American Stories Reviews

  • Amira
    2019-04-10 23:07

    I enjoyed this read, I really like how Alia Malek organized the stories of these individuals.

  • Martha Toll
    2019-04-11 15:02

    Some commentary... Open Borders: ‘Him, Me, Muhammad Ali’By Martha Anne Toll posted at 6:00 am on October 11, 2016 0covercoverIf you haven’t read Randa Jarrar, it’s time to. Jarrar’s debut novel, A Map of Home, introduced her as a smart and funny/not-so-funny writer. Jarrar grew up in Kuwait and Egypt, the daughter of an Egyptian-Greek mother and Palestinian father. She moved to the United States after the first Gulf War. A Map of Home is a coming of age story about Nidali, a girl with similar background to the author’s, who lands in Texas after migrating through various parts of the Middle East. Laced with family antics — affectionate and keenly observed — A Map of Home is an immigrant story with kick. Here’s Nidali, just off the plane in Texas: I looked out the car’s window, mesmerized by the highway. Cars stayed in their lanes. They stopped at traffic lights; here, those red and yellow and green circles were not mere suggestions or street decorations….A woman was crossing the street and no one appeared to offer her luscious love bone. We arrived at our new home, a long narrow house that was a little off the ground. You had to take three big steps to stand on its front porch. It was on a short dirt road…lined here and there, and here again, with cans of Lone Star. This must by the soda they drink here, I thought.coverAlia Malek’s A Country Called Amreeka uses nonfiction to tell the story of Arab immigration to America over the last century. Malek profiles a series of individuals — an Alabama football player in the Jim Crow South, a politician giving voice to Arab American constituents, a gay man who has to navigate bi-culturally — each an immigrant “success,” each quintessentially American. A Map of Home deploys fiction similarly; it offers a fresh lens on the immigrant experience so core to being American. In an interview with Beirut39, Jarrar said, “Texas kind of reminds me of an Arab country in America where everyone speaks Spanish instead of Arabic. I like the approximation in culture.” That approximation is deftly illustrated in her debut novel.If A Map of Home travels from Kuwait to Texas with humor and wit, Jarrar’s forthcoming short story collection, Him, Me, Muhammad Ali, paints with an even broader brush. With compelling themes of displacement and reinvention, these stories push boundaries — probing race, class, sexual identity, and family; the role of women in Arab and American culture; and much more. In this collection, mythology meets reality, and Jarrar’s palette spans the world.The stories are full of pithy asides. Describing a mentorship with an imperious and mesmerizing Egyptian feminist in “How Can I Be of Use to You?” the narrator wants to hitchhike “back to my family — to their familiar oppression and their unspoken support.” In “Grace,” a heartbreaking story worthy of Borges, a seven-year-old girl is kidnapped from a Pathmark in Paramus, renamed Grace, and raised by a female commune. She plays with a doll that she convinces herself is a “still and shrunken Ida,” her little sister. She is never found. As an adult, however, she discovers that Ida has written a novel that precisely describes her captivity. It hurt me that Ida could have found me and not reached out to me. But I guessed we were even. Still I felt angry that she imagined me as a lonely old hag, still imprisoned…. Each night, before I go to sleep, I picture myself driving to our old house. I imagine Ida waiting for me by the staircase, still a child…. We run through the empty house, no one there but us, stopping in the vast, wooden den. And there Ida asks me where I’ve been, and I tell her: that I’d been taken away by those who wanted to share a life with me, that I’d been quickly kidnapped by love.There’s boy trouble and religion trouble. In “Lost in Freakin’ Yonkers,” the narrator is thrown out of her home, pregnant and single: When you’re disowned, your mother becomes your secret lover, calling you from pay phones, visiting at odd hours and for short bits of time. And your lover becomes your mother, has to take care of you now that she’s gone.Despite her mother’s urging, the narrator is not interested in trying to convert the father of her child — “He’ll be shitty Muslim and a shitty husband too.” She drives home with the drunken boyfriend after the birth, “a ton of shit going on inside my head.” This is it? I ask myself, hating the government and financial rules, my reproductive system, his big dick, and mostly, my God. Not just God, but the God, the one who wrote the book resting in the car-door pocket on my left, the book that my boyfriend erroneously skims from left to right, the book that provides Guilt big enough to make me want to marry this ape with several mental illnesses he does not plan on addressing any time soon.Politics are never far below the surface. “Testimony of Malik, Prisoner #287690” is written in the form of a report from Istanbul describing a kestrel named Malik Kareem Aziz El-Hajj Aamer Kan’un found in a “nearby village with Israeli tag on claw and placed under arrest…We believe the small falcon is a spy.” Interrogated by a series of Commanders, the kestrel says As a child, I saw the bodies of collaborators hung from the lines my kin and I used to hunt from. Their bodies swayed. The punishment for spying was always death. And death never appealed to me…. One day, while I was en route to the sea, I saw the bigger birds, the warplanes, hovering far above me. The plane urinated a white phosphorous that clouded the air I flew in, and soon I was in the sea.coverThe kestrel is captured by university students in Tel Aviv, investigated, and tagged. “In Aqraba, everyone was angry with me for being captured by the Israelis.” He falls in love with a gull from Istanbul. “She said we could never breed, because I was not one of them.” The final transmission from Prisoner #287690’s recording chip is one of longing and displacement: “I am too elderly to fly home now. I want to return to Aqraba, to say goodbye, not to those who have shunned me, but to my land, to the olive trees, the earth, and the cicadas.” (Are birds a current stand-in for grief and rage? Max Porter’s new novel, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, substitutes a crow for a nanny/grief counselor following the death of a young mother.)Jarrar’s title story opens with the death of the narrator’s father from a brain aneurysm “on the Metro-North train from White Plains to Grand Central; his fellow commuters didn’t notice until Scarsdale.” The narrator is the daughter of a transcontinental marriage between two journalists — a Black American man and an Egyptian woman from Sydney — who meet at the Ali-Foreman fight in Zaire. After their engagement, my parents wrote their respective stories on the plane and filed them from Cairo, then took the Egypt Rail to Alexandria. My dad exaggeratedly said he was pissing out of his ass the entire ride over. In Alexandria, he was greeted as family, converted to Islam a week later, and married my mum in the front hall of her apartment building. She left my dad and moved back to Sydney before I turned one. I never knew why, but suspected…that he’d cheated on her. Everyone in Sydney treated me like an Egyptian kid. I looked like one of them, and nobody mentioned my Black dad.The narrator recalls being the victim of racist epithets, remarking that her Mom was good at hiding things. “The whole time she was my mother,” Jarrar writes, suggesting that the connection was temporary, “I assumed she never got laid or even dated, but I was mistaken.” Again, there is deracination, complex family relationships, and humor that telegraphs heartache.coverJarrar channels Isaac Babel in “The Story of My Building” and in the final story covers territory reminiscent of Moacyr Scliar’s The Centaur in the Garden (about a centaur born to a Jewish family in Brazil). “The Life, Loves, and Adventures of Zelwa the Halfie” is the tale of a “half woman — the upper half — and half Transjordanian ibex.” If ever there was an allegory of an outsider, this is it. Ibex were once the supermodels of the Near East, where our fine likeness were painted on vases and water jugs, our horns curling back like shells. Sadly, I do not have horns…but I am horny. As you can imagine, though, I have been single for a while. Nowadays, when I go on dates, I drive my disability-equipped van, which allows me to accelerate with my hands and provides my lower body lots of room. But when I was younger, I used to show up at dates’ doors, carry them on my back, and gallop off to dinner. This was a problem because it created an intense and too-premature sense of intimacy.The thirteen stories in this collection blend humor with rage, wit with pathos. Jarrar presents an astonishing variety, each story as inventive as it is insightful. It’s a book for this oppressive electoral season, where presidential politics are ugly and destructive, and demagoguery is endeavoring to trample a core American truth: Our country’s strength derives from open borders. Jarrar is here with a correction.

  • Chrisiant
    2019-03-25 17:21

    This was a nice shift in perspective - looking at moments in American history that were particularly significant for various Arab-Americans. The narratives made it engaging, but there were also lots of broader points, like how the meaning of the term "Arab-American" and who it encompasses changed over the course of the 20th century, and how various political actors took advantage of events to scapegoat Arab-Americans.

  • Yaman Hukan
    2019-04-16 15:19

    A very nice insight on the lives of Americans of Middle Eastern origin and how they navigate their lives in "Amreeka" and how they both influenced and were influenced by the major events in American and Middle Eastern histories. Loved the variety of stories and perspectives narrated in the book. Definitely recommended.

  • Jonathan
    2019-03-30 16:16

    This books is a gift to any of us who want to have a better understanding of the United States. I so appreciate that Malek shared these stories with us.

  • Oraib Khalifeh
    2019-03-24 22:18

    Such a demographic book. The Author went deep into documenting all the Arab waves of immigration and add a story from each period. Well done.

  • Bimol Karmaker
    2019-04-18 19:59

    I picked this book up to get a perspective on the influence of american events/history in arab-american culture and generations. "Arab roots, American Stories," "U.S. History retold through Arab-American Lives" - sound like good premises, right?Unfortunately, it was very difficult to keep reading. I had to stop before getting halfway through. Though the stories are non-fiction, and the author did in most cases personally interview the people she writes about, I couldn't help but feeling that through the portions that I did read there's an aspect of the romantic and fantastic here that shouldn't be. People leave the bliss of simple village life in the old country and come to the strange hectic bustle of the American city, where they, the heroic underdog, have to struggle to make do and succeed. Established Arab-Americans, who have lived in the states for generations, have still to deal with the extreme xenophobia and racism of the mid 20th century. People just trying to live their lives dealing with (in no chronological order) the destruction of palestine, the six days war between egypt and israel, the islamic revolution in iran, 9/11, etc. You do get to look through the eyes of these people, in a sense, but the perspective most often presented is that of, "Why is this happening to me/my family/our people? Why can't the world be a better place? I have done nothing wrong, why are things so unfair?" And the problem is that these are the questions asked by any decent, hardworking person trying to make their own life. It is not an exclusively arab-american perspective. You get to see that arab-americans are human beings too, just like the rest of us. But that's not what I wanted to read this book for. This book shouldn't have to point out that most people, whether or not they're american, arab, white, brown, or what have you, are just trying to live their lives out in peace - that ought<\b> to be a given. (maybe it's not, and maybe that's why others praise the book). I wanted to read this so that I could get a more balanced perspective of how middle eastern history has intertwined with american history. As it is, the characters of Amreeka remain anonymous, through the filter of Ms. Malek's ego/writing; anonymous because their struggles are in many ways not unique. And worse, anonymous because they don't, like most people, see over the divide. The cultural divide, the racial divide, the national divide, the divide between individuals. They don't have the perspective to see, and therefore I don't get a new perspective from reading about them. Whoo. That's a lot of writing. I only rated this two stars, but i encourage others to read to see if my own perspective is flawed, and that perhaps it is a worthwhile book.

  • Stephen
    2019-04-13 20:01

    I discovered A Country Called Amreeka while looking for the film Amreeka, the story of a Palestinian woman who emigrates to the United States with her son Fadi. Ms. Malek's book is a history of thousands of men and women who have made the same journey, escaping civil war and poverty by journeying to America. Ms. Malek does not endeavor to give a survey of Arab immigration to the United States spanning a century, as the title hints she may; instead, she uses the personal stories of various families to visit 20th century American history through their eyes. The book begins with American factories soliciting immigration from Europe, and unexpectedly receiving it from Greece, Syria, and other areas around the Med's eastern rim. Although these first Arabs would draw the wrath of nativists like the Klan for both their appearances and their faith (the Syrians were predominately Catholics), these first immigrants largely sought assimilation within the American melting pot. Later and larger waves coincided with the civil rights movement within the United States, and total assimilation was resisted. America's foreign policy in the same period gave Arab-Americans from diverse countries a cause to unite around, chiefly opposing the United States government's unqualified support of Israel. The collection of stories here has quite a few strengths; the heavy use of Christian Arabs, which runs against American media stereotypes; a few interesting tales like an Arab-American soldier in the Iraq war, or the two women who fought fiercely for opposite sides in the Bush-Gore presidential battle. (Set as it was before 2003, how strange now to think of Bush being courted by Arab-American civil associations..) The book suffers from an over-emphasis on politics, with more ink devoted to Palestine than the Arab-American immigrant experience. Considering that the author is a civil rights attorney who once worked in the West Bank, the focus isn't surprising. Still, more interesting information filters through this repetition: in Michigan, for instance, Arab auto workers went on strike against their union after it began buying Israeli bonds with dues money. While a book like this is presumably useful to hypothetical Americans who think everyone in the middle east gets around on a camel, what the book mostly amounts to is accounts of Arabs experiencing racism during events like the Iranian hostage crisis and the post 9/11 period, and then fighting for Palestine through political activism. While these are aspects that deserve thought, there is far more to life -- and to the immigrant experience -- than mere politics.

  • Michelle
    2019-04-15 20:04

    An incredibly frustrating book. The stories - snippets of the lives of Arab Americans - are an essential part of the American fabric, and Malek fills a wide void by presenting such a variety of American lives. I've read several narratives of Arab immigrant families, and none have hit upon the American side of the Arab American duality as well as Malek has. The Arab roots are important, but these are stories about the relationship Americans of Arab descent and immigrants from Arab countries have had with their new country, through the Civil Rights era through the War on Terror. That said, when the author steps into the "voice" of her subjects, the results are nearly unreadable -- many of the details in her stories are chaotic, and her choices of phrasing are often artificial and jarring (especially in "Alan"). When the author writes in her own voice, in the afterword, and in the italicized portions beginning each chapter, her talents are clear. If only this approach took up more of the book. As others have noted, this book does look at the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through an unabashedly Arab lens. No doubt, many will be disturbed by this, but for those who wish to look at the dispute over the Occupied Territories and Jerusalem from a new perspective, this book will prove invaluable. Finally, I was personally struck by something the author said in her afterword: as a great-granddaughter of Lebanese immigrants, growing up in a decidedly Lebanese household, I always thought of my home life as separate from the American experience of my friends. This book reminded me that my experience is as "quintessentially American" as that of "the Amekanis" and that this country is much bigger than a single understanding of American-ness.

  • Leonard
    2019-04-01 16:17

    The is a set of real stories of Arab Americans across all walks of life, the journeys they and their families took to the US, and their struggles when they arrived. Reading stories about individuals and their experiences is the best way to learn about complicated subjects like the Middle East and immigration, and this author really knows how to relate informative and riveting stories. Courage. Action. Drama. The people who tell their stories are all intelligent and observant. They opened my eyes. I learned a lot.Some of the stories, like that of Alex Odeh and his family, are especially important historically and it is surprising no one has really captured these details until now.The Library of Congress in Washington, DC hosted a signing for this book. One enters through the Great Hall, an incredibly ornate interior with art that highlights how many peoples from around the world have come together to make America the great nation that it is. Malek spoke about the origins of the two big waves of Arab immigration to the US (the first being in the late 19th century, the second starting in the 1960's), what motivated so many to pick up and travel across the ocean, and their experiences when they arrived. Malek also spoke about the importance of interviewing our immigrant elders and recording their stories about where they came from, and what experiences they had, to preserve this invaluable information for future generations. This book does it with passion. I really enjoyed it.

  • Nadia
    2019-03-29 17:12

    I'm glad that at least one of the new(ish) books about Arabs in the US talks about anti-Arab racism before 2001 and shows that its roots are at least decades long. Basically, there are two big waves of immigration: the first in the late 19th/early 20th century that was largely composed of Lebanese and Syrian working class Christians who were highly pressured to assimilate, and then the second which started up in the late 1960s and 70s and was made up of people from much more diverse backgrounds-the focus here is unsurprisingly on the latter era.I really liked the framing of the stories at different points in both American and Middle Eastern history, since diasporas are as affected by events "back home" as they are by the American reaction to them. So we get some contextualization at the start of each chapter, and in addition to the personal stories we also get some history of formal political organizing that happened in more recent years, which I knew pretty much nothing about. Unlike other people I found this book to be as light on the polemics as possible, which is fine because that's exactly not what I was expecting out of this kind of book. I got a lot out of reading this but it's obvious that it and Moustafa Bayoumi's "How Does it Feel to be a Problem" were written with a much broader audience in mind. These books were written to be accessible to everyone and they work on that level.

  • Sean Carman
    2019-04-06 15:09

    Alia Malek's narratives trace the arc of America's civil rights struggles, but with a twist: We see them through the eyes of Arab-Americans.Malek, a journalist based in Beirut, writes in the book's eloquent afterword that she began her former career as a civil rights lawyer partly out of "a yearning for visibility, for normalization, and affirmation," and these desires clearly power her book as well. "I realized that litigating for people's rights, including Arab Americans'," Malek writes, "would be better served if their lived reality, their voices, their faces, their names were less foreign to their fellow Americans."A Country Called Amreeka bears powerful witness to the lives of people who have often been invisible in America, but Malek's narratives do more than bring her subjects into the light: Her skillful telling of their stories also honors them with dignity.

  • Nuha
    2019-04-11 22:02

    This book, while nonfiction, flowed like a novel with the personal stories of Arab Americans at different points in US history. The casual racism that early Arab immigrants faced, with quotas on the numbers allowed into the country; to the debates in the court system trying to determine if Arabs were white (which would determine if they were allowed citizenship) was shocking to me. Fascinating look at the history of Arab Americans from a cultural perspective and how their efforts at political organization changed over time. I plan to read more of the author's work. Well researched and well written, this book was a pleasure to read.

  • Jules
    2019-04-12 23:19

    This is a very enlightening book that gives a voice and a face to real Arab American immigrants, and their experiences trying to live the American dream in the midst of prejudices and stereotypes fueled by the Middle East conflict and terrorism. It's great to finally have a book like this when we have already heard the stories of other immigrant groups.It's an easy read. The author seamlessly weaves real world events with real people and their lives at a grassroots level. The stories of each individual drew me in, allowing me to really empathize with their experiences. It's a rich social/cultural/political lesson.It's a must read!

  • Cristina1961
    2019-04-08 22:56

    Malek tells the stories of Arab Americans working to live their lives which, depending on world events, can become extremely difficult, at times with tragic results. She points out the perceptions and stereotypes, especially that all Arabs are Muslims and should be feared. I finished realizing how resilient these Americans are, refusing to be backed into a corner because of others thoughts. A really good read.

  • Marci
    2019-04-06 18:11

    This book focuses on different Arab American stories set chronically in 1963 and moving forward to post 9/11. This book illustrates the Americaness of the Arabs who have recently immigrated as well as those who have been here for generations.

  • Josh
    2019-04-01 18:21

    Insights into what it's like to be an Arab in America. Different take on American history, so it was good.

  • Rina
    2019-03-26 18:21

    Easy to read, gave me a new perspective.

  • Chris
    2019-03-21 17:07

    Interesting at the beginning but gets repetitive.

  • Lisa
    2019-04-11 22:12

    Some parts are very intriguing, but the stories became repetitive. My limited interest in the history and politics made this book less than compelling.

  • Susan
    2019-03-27 21:18

    This book is a gem.... an in-depth, compassionate look at Arab American lives that give us the full range of experiences of immigrants and successive generations...

  • Marla Griffith
    2019-04-08 16:56

    Hmmm, pretty good

  • Ahndrea
    2019-04-17 19:51

    I enjoyed reading the book. It was a page turner. It was a well written book and encourages friends of mine to read this book.