A Country Called Amreeka by Alia Malek

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This is a phenomenal book that opens the door to understanding the American Arab experience. Very easy to read, funny, sad, well written.
Here is some more information on this book.
— Ray Hanania
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“Infectiously readable. . . . This book gives us the faces behind the names, and tells the story of a community that both enriches and embraces the American fabric.  A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA, and the people who inhabit it, are remarkable.”
—Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, author of A Leap of Faith: Memoir of an Unexpected Life
BACKGROUND:
One of the biggest issues facing America today is how to engage the people of the Middle East and Muslim World. President Obama made that clear to the world in his historic Cairo speech this past July. But how can we hope to foster cross-cultural peace overseas when we know so little of the Arab population in our own backyard?
Just as the recent award-winning National Geographic Entertainment film AMREEKA, by Cherien Dabis, blazed new ground in its depiction of a mother and son from the West Bank trying to assimilate in America, Syrian American civil rights attorney Alia Malek’s A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA:  Arab Roots, American Stories (Free Press; October 6, 2009; $25.00) brings to captivating life true stories of a wide variety of Arab Americans from across the country, navigating the divide between their original heritage and their new world in the United States.
There are an estimated 3.5 million Arab Americans living in all 50 of the United States today. They are neighbors, classmates, voters, heroes, relatives, and friends.  Since 9/11, they have become the object of relentless scrutiny, yet little is understood about them. For example, current statistics show that most Arab Americans (75%) are NOT Muslims, and most Muslims in America (76%) are NOT Arab. In A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA,  Malek gives faces to the hard-to-pronounce names and tells the story of a community that has become essential for us to recognize, so that we better understand our own American history and how our society is evolving. 
Organized around a timeline of events that begins unexpectedly for most readers in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s, each chapter corresponds to one event and one Arab American, allowing readers to live that moment in history in the skin of an individual Arab American.  Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan calls the book, “Infectiously readable, the profiles in A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA add character and texture to the history of the Arab-American community, challenging every tired stereotype and giving us new insight into what it means to be an Arab-American today.”
In an interview about A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA, Alia Malek can discuss not only the specifics of the Arab American narrative and place in American history but issues relevant to all Americans such as:
·         The “new America” of people with hyphenated-identities who saw themselves in President Obama and were essential in bringing him to power (and who applauded his choice of a wise Latina for the U.S. Supreme Court)
·         How race and ethnicity have evolved in American society in the last 100+ years and how demographic changes have re-defined who Americans are ethnically and racially   
·         The disproportional effect of the Arab Israeli conflict and the Palestinian struggle on Arab American lives
·         Ethnic profiling post-9/11
·         What it’s like for Arabic-speaking soldiers to fight for the U.S. in Iraq
·         The Arab American perspective on events such as the Birmingham church bombing in 1963, the 1973 Oil Embargo, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and of course 9/11
·         What it’s like to be shut out of the national narrative
·         Any current event in the world, from an Arab-American perspective
           
More Advance Praise for Alia Malek’s A COUNTRY CALLEDAMREEKA
(Free Press; October 6, 2009)
  
Written with wit, compassion and insight, [A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA] is at once timeless, in its telling of immigrants in America, and unique, in its exploration of the diversity of the Arab-American community….a stirring story of humor, loss, love and triumph.”
 Anthony Shadid, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War
 “[A]superb snapshot of the Americans of Arab-speaking descent…. 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?’….an excellent book, one certain to put right some of the wrongs it catalogues.”      —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review, Pick of the Week)
“What does American history look like for those stereotyped as oil rich sheiks or terrorists? Syrian American civil rights lawyer Malek tells us in a direct, open style…It works beautifully, because each chapter is based on her personal interview with one Arab American in a particular place, from an autoworker in Dearborn to a bellhop in Chicago, and with a focus on one political event…. An essential addition to the Booklist Core Collection: “The New Immigration Story.”       —Booklist
 “Alia Malek’s impassioned and harrowing set of profiles of Arab-Americans gives vitality and resonance to a cause that is dear to my heart: fostering cross-cultural understanding and respect. Infectiously readable, the profiles in A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA add character and texture to the history of the Arab-American community, challenging every tired stereotype and giving us new insight into what it means to be an Arab-American today. This book gives us the faces behind the names, and tells the story of a community that both enriches and embraces the American fabric. A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA, and the Americans who inhabit it, are remarkable.” —Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, author of A Leap of Faith: Memoir of an Unexpected Life
A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKAby Alia Malek is great reading for anyone who is interested in the hyphenated American immigrant.  The hopes and dreams of ordinary people who have come to the Land of Great Hope are beautifully depicted in her book.  The lives of the people she depicts are compelling for their struggles for a better life.  The book is engaging and enlightening, impossible to put down.”  —Helen Thomas, columnist for Hearst Newspapers
 “If you’re not an Arab-American, then it’s really imperative for you to read this fascinating book. You couldn’t ask for a more informative, engaging, and provocative introduction to millions of our fellow citizens. From football star to soldier, from gay activist to union leader, cheerleader, minister, Democrat, Republican, Christian, Muslim – Alia Malek brings the entire spectrum of Arab America to vivid, three-dimensional life.” —Samuel G. Freedman, author of Letters to a Young Journalist and Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry
 “Alia Malek’s A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA is a unique, engaging portrayal of Arab American lives.  Malek deftly combines the genres of biography, history, memoir, and commentary to produce a story of Arab Americans that is nearly impossible to put down.  Malek takes the reader on multiple journeys, from the Arab World to the American heartland, all the while introducing us to lovable, quirky, diverse characters who all have in common a desire to find comfortable spaces in A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA.  Malek does not romanticize or vilify Arab Americans.  She presents them in all their complex lifeways and worldviews.  The result is a book of great imagination and unusual depth.”
—Steven Salaita, author of Anti-Arab Racism in the USA: Where it Comes From and What it Means for Politics and The Uncultured Wars: Arabs, Muslims and the Poverty of Liberal Thought
A COUNTRY CALLED AMREEKA by Alia Malek is a deeply engaging series of portraits of Arab American lives in a profoundly complicated time. Malek’s compelling ability to imagine and construct perspectives and problems of a wide range of individuals feels intuitively masterful. This should be a textbook across the nation — even the most reluctant readers will (hopefully) be enlarged, their stereotypes neutralized.”
Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Habibi.

This post has already been read 75 times!

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