September 1, 2009

What is it like to be Arab American? 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 through diverse individual stories, not to separate Arab Americans but to “fold their experiences into the mosaic of American history and deepen our understanding of who we Americans are.” It works beautifully, because each chapter is based on her personal interview with one Arab American in a particular place, from an auto worker in Dearborn to a bellhop in Chicago, and with a focus on one political event. Starting with the Lebanese community in Birmingham after the 1963 church bombing, she discusses the landmark 1965 Immigration Law, the Gulf War, 9/11, and up to the present, where technology has shrunk the break with the old country. In an entertaining final section, two dynamic women talk about working the 2000 election, one for Gore, one for Bush.

An essential addition to the Booklist Core Collection: “The New Immigration

— Hazel Rochman