Sand Niggers, Small Shops, and Uncle Sam: Cultural Negotiation in the Fiction of Joseph Geha and Diana Abu-Jaber

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English & Comparative Literature Department

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Research Article

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Publication Date

Fall 2001


This essay will examine the emergence of Arab American literature as it relates to the sudden visibility of this community in the political and cultural topography of the United States.1 Over the past decade, a growing body of scholarship has analyzed the growth and makeup of domestic Arab life, in the process crystallizing the designation Arab American, if not the boundaries surrounding such a broad term. Arab Americans have been active socially and politically throughout the twentieth century,2 but after 1967 emphasis on cultural preservation and political activity not simply as American citizens but as Arab citizens of America has led to some recognition of an Arab entity by mainstream America. Accompanying this activity has been a body of literature, examined by scholars such as Lisa Suhair Majaj, Evelyn Shakir, Joanna Kadi, Munir Akash, and Khaled Mattawa, as specifically Arab American. Where text specific analyses exist, however, they tend to deal more with poetry than fic tion, perhaps simply because up to this point the available poetry is more extensive. I seek to fill a gap in Arab American literary scholarship by focusing on two works of fiction, Joseph Geha's Through and Through: Toledo Stories (1990) and Diana Abu-Jaber's Arabian Jazz (1993).

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