It seems to be flying a bit under the radar this year (every year?), but, turns out, April is National Arab American Heritage Month. So, as has become customary here at EthnoLit, I’ll be making a concerted effort to read as much Arab-American literature as my overloaded reading schedule can support. However, less customary (in fact, unprecedented), I will be starting with a book that, well, isn’t written by an Arab American writer! I know, blasphemy! Or, at least, kinda weird.
But hear me out. I will be reading Dominated Man by Albert Memmi which is, according to the faded back cover description, “on the subject of dominated people — black men, colonized peoples, Jews, women, the poor”. Given the state of the world right now, with so many dominated peoples rising up against their oppressors, this seems like a relevant and urgent topic. Also, while Memmi is not Arab American, he is of Arab descent. As a Tunisian Jew born in French-colonized Tunisia, later migrating to France, Memmi inhabits an interesting and conflicted identity – one of neither the colonized nor the colonizer. Also, since I’m sure some will oppose my saying above that “he is of Arab descent” after mentioning that he is Jewish, Memmi is also one of few to self-identify as an Arab Jew, reconciling, at least in himself, what many consider to be an oxymoron. I cannot say that I am informed enough to have a stance on the issue, but I’ll respect his self-identification.
I gotta say I love controversy, but really my choosing this book is much more for its content – it’s ideas on the socio-psychology of the dominated man. So rather than reading Albert Memmi for Arab American Heritage Month, it’s more like I’m reading Dominated Man for the Arab Spring.
Nonetheless, I do intend to read some (actual) Arab American writers this month and beyond. Here’s my ambitious list/suggestions for anyone interested:
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
Arabian Jazz by Diana Abu-Jaber
Through and Through by Joseph Geha
How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi
Zataar Diva by Suheir Hammad
Resurrecting Empire by Rashid Khalidi
The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi