‘Egyptian-American’: The Hyphenated Experience

Priscilla Wathington
Looking Both Ways
By Pauline Kaldas
Cune Press, 2017
Something about Pauline Kaldas’ new memoir makes you feel both adrift and at home – sensations normally at war with each other. Yet, somehow, in her rounded phrases and softly imparted narratives, the elements of surprise and familiarity find balance in each other.
Composed of a string of personal essays, her history unfolds over many moments, rather than the narration of a single breath.

‘Traveling Scholar’ Ella Shohat: The Contradictions and Challenges of Being an Arab Jew

As a public intellectual, Ella Shohat has found that her personal history profoundly informs her scholarship. Born in Israel to Iraqi parents who had migrated to that country after 1948, Shohat grew up in an Israeli culture that discriminated against Mizrahi Jews. Living a life of contradictions and tension as an “Arab-Jew” – a person of the Jewish religion whose culture and primary language are Arabic, she has found herself on countless occasions having to explain an identity that seemed like an oxymoron, an impossibility, to academics and others.

Chronicling Syrians’ Personal Stories of Struggle to Reach Safe Refuge

Sarah Rogers

On Friday January 27, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that, for a 90-day period, suspended immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States from Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. It also, for a period of 120 days, suspended the Refugee Resettlement Program, placing an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. “Leaving Syria: Seeking Refuge in Greece” makes clear the plight of Syrian refugees traces back to a much longer and tragic history.

Leaving Syria: Seeking Refuge in Greece
By Bill Dienst, MD and Madi Williamson
Cune Press, 2017

Standing in for the Dead: A Lebanese War Story

Lynne Rogers
By Rabee Jaber, translated by Karem James Abu-Zeid
New Directions, 2016
Kareem James Abu-Zeid’s translation of Rabee Jaber’s novel “Confessions” brings to American readers a brutally honest, yet uplifting narrative of the war in Lebanon. The quest for identity has proven a fertile literary paradigm for this war, yet Jaber’s narrative quest breathes fresh air into the oft repeated paradigm.

‘Under Brush Strokes’: Hedy Habra’s Finely Woven World of Words

Mark Grimes

Under Brush Strokes
By Hedy Habra
Press 53, 2015

In her “Under Brush Strokes,” Hedy Habra has created poems at once sensuous, frightening frightened, and so deeply immersed in the present that each moment appears like “a houseboat floating over a sea of foaming moss so thick/it seems anchored in green dunes despite its full-blown drift.” Her poems also harken to moments deeply reflective about the still-open doors of the past, where “we shall circle the human ruins, hand in hand, rest under/ the coolness of their elongated shadow.”

Novel Offers Travelogue Through Syrian Dystopia

D.W. Aossey

The Plain of Dead Cities: A Syrian Tale
By Bruce McLaren
Cune Press, 2014.

It seems that the catastrophe in Syria, scenes of which have become painfully commonplace, may now be fertile ground for narrative fiction rich in history and corruption. If so, “The Plain of Dead Cities,” by Bruce McLaren, delivers exactly that. This intriguing book appears to be a travelogue through a dystopia reminiscent of Dante’s “Inferno,” terrible, yet at the same time fascinating. Still, the story leaves much to be resolved.


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