Tackling Taboos in Chicago Setting

Susan Muaddi Darraj

Chicago (A Novel)
By Alaa al-Aswany
New York: Harper Collins, 2008

On October 22, 2008, I listened to an interview of Egyptian dentist-turned-journalist-turned-novelist Alaa al-Aswany on NPR's "The Diane Rehm Show." During the interview, Rehm addressed the sexual themes in al-Aswany's latest novel, "Chicago": "In your books… you’ve written explicitly about many taboo subjects including homosexuality and abortion. Why do you believe you have not been silenced as a result of writing about such things?"

A Vision of Arab-American Underworld in 'Souls'

By Shakir Mustafa

A Pair of Misguided Souls (in Arabic)
By Mahmoud Saeed
Beirut, Dar Al Adab, 2003

In his post 9/11 novel, Mahmoud Saeed presents an unmistakable Arab-American underworld of outright scoundrels: drug dealers, thieves, counterfeiters, smugglers, pimps. Interestingly, Saeed does not suggest that his characters have been pushed into criminal behavior as a consequence of collective victimization after that atrocity.  Instead, the crackdown after 9/11 exposes the existence of such human types.

A Major Contribution to Arab-American Studies

By Pauline Homsi Vinson

The Arab-American Experience in the United States and Canada: A Classified, Annotated Bibliography
By Michael W. Suleiman
The Pierian Press, Inc., 2006 

The first of its kind, Michael W. Suleiman’s “The Arab-American Experience in the United States and Canada: A Classified, Annotated Bibliography” is a truly impressive work that is sure to prove invaluable to those interested in the study of the lives and works of Arabs in America.

Haidar Haidar’s ‘Banquet for Seaweed’ Attempts Balancing Act Haidar Haidar’s ‘Banquet for Seaweed’ Attempts Balancing

By Mahmoud Saeed

Walima Li Aashaab Al Bahr [Banquet For Seaweed]
By Haidar Haidar
Beirut: 1983, pp. 378.

An Iraqi proverb says “two pomegranates do not fit in one hand;” they cannot be carried simultaneously. This proverb applies to a wide range of issues, including the art of novel writing, especially when attempting to combine politics and art. Few novels succeed in integrating these two elements, and Haidar Haidar’s “Walima Li Aashaab Al Bahr” [Banquet for Seaweed] makes another attempt. Does it succeed?


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