Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week!

August 24, 2009

The U.S. has long lauded itself as a nation of immigrants, but some communities have had considerable difficulty weaving themselves into the American tapestry, notably, Arab-Americans. In this superb snapshot of the Americans of Arab-speaking descent, individuals with roots in Jordan, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon share their stories and demonstrate the extent to which, even as they play football, work assembly lines and hold public office, they remain shut out of the national narrative. With a remarkable ability to capture her subjects’ voices, Malek, a Syrian-American civil rights lawyer, sketches illuminating responses to her question: “What does American history look and feel like in the eyes and skin of Arab Americans?” There’s the Lebanese-American, too dark for 1960s Birmingham; the Palestinian-American surrounded by anti-Arab violence during the Iranian hostage crisis; the Yemeni-American deployed to Iraq with the Marine Corps. In her effort to demonstrate the impact of foreign affairs on American soil, Malek focuses too heavily on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, giving short shrift to other important stories of upheaval, but this is an excellent book, one certain to put right some of the wrongs it catalogues. (Oct.)