“If Olaya Street Could Talk” gives Americans a clear and fascinating perspective on Saudi Arabia

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(Listen to podcast interview with author, below). Saudi Arabia is the whipping boy of the American public. Any time something goes wrong, blame it on the Arabs and the symbol of the Arabs remains an old, outdated video clip of King Faisal in old black sunglasses with a keffiyeh on his head and wearing long white gowns surrounded by similarly dressed sheikhs. King Faisal was a very dedicated Arab leader who did his best to bring the Arab World into the modern century without losing the cultural uniqueness of being an Arab. It continues today, but Americans only selfishly think of oil and blame their own troubles on everyone else, and Saudi Arabia often takes the beating.

But a new book is out that is perfect for American readers called “If Olaya Street Could Talk.” It’s written by an American, John Paul Jones, who launched one of the only real Arab American printing houses to focus on badly needed objective books about the Middle East, Taza Press at http://www.tazapress.com/.

Jones offers firsthand insights into the reality of Saudi Arabia and focuses on the Islamic-Western divide which is often exaggerated to achieve political agendas.

Olaya Street is the principle thoroughfare in Riyadh, which Jones notes is the equivalent to New York ity, a street he first saw in 1978 when he first arrived in the country. Back then, he remembers, it had goats grazing along its easements. But today, 60 story office buildings garnish the main arterial road. The cover photos alone show how the street changed from a desert highway with oil rigs and cranes to a bustling cosmopolitan city that Jones guides the reader through, offering a real, firsthand look at the Saudi people, their customs and their religion, Islam, a religion of peace.

Jones does what most other Islamic scholars and activists fail to do, separate the political agendas and their selfish needs from the reality of life, when the Vietnam Veteran returned home to find a possible opportunity working for a company in the desert kingdom.

What he brings back thirty years later is an objectivity and a truth that no one who has covered Saudi Arabia and the Arab and Muslim Worlds has ever managed to give the American public. An unvarnished, accurate look at the reality of life there without worrying about the political agendas that transform lies into truth and truth into propaganda.

“If Olaya Street Could Talk” is a book Americans definitely should invest what little money they have left from their salaries that isn’t spent on gasoline and other products exploited by multi-national corporations and balmed on the Arabs.

Author John Paul Jones
Albuqurque, New Mexico
2007, 236 Pages

PODCAST INTERVIEW: POINT TO POINT. August 1, 2008: Ray Hanania interviews Author John Paul Jones on his new book “If Olaya Street Could Talk: Saudi Arabia the Heartland of Oil and Islam” published by Taza Press. A detailed look at the Saudi world through the eyes of a typical American. Listen to podcast?

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com