The Catcher in the Bulgur?

Coming of Age Story Witnesses Tribulations of Growing up Arab American in Brooklyn
D.W. Aossey
Coming of age stories can be tricky. In no other genre do authors willingly stick out their necks, relying on a single, flawed adolescent to heroically carry the day. No clever plot twist can save our young protagonists if they’re not up to the task; no quirky sidekicks or kinky lovers can plaster over the holes. The vulnerability of a Holden Caulfield, the dimwitted charm of a Forrest Gump, or even the precocious morality of a Kevin Arnold was always destined to shine. And then we have Michael Haddad, the teenager at the center of “Arab Boy Delivered” by author Michael Aziz Zarou.
It’s the early 1960s. A Palestinian family takes over a neighborhood grocery store in an Italian part of Brooklyn, where working-class residents pop in and out for bread, milk, beer, and cigarettes. They’re mild to outright discriminatory against Arabs. “Camel jockey assholes, go back to the desert!” comes up more than once; vandalism and other mischief loom. The police have little help. Michael, the young son of old country proprietors Aziz and Jamila Haddad, searches his parent’s worried expressions and philosophizes. He listens to 60s music and goes through his coming-of-age routine, seeming more grown-up than he should be. He looks at himself in the mirror and thinks. 

Book Offers Overview of Women’s Growing Influence on Wide Range of Arab Affairs, From Combating Pedophilia to Advocating for LGBTQ Rights

Lynne Rogers

In ‘Women Rising: In and Beyond the Arab Spring,” editors Rita Stephan and Mounira M. Charrad compile 40 informative essays that contextualize female activism throughout the Arab world. They characterize women’s participation in the Arab Spring not as a spontaneous moment of resistance but as an extension of previous activism that has continued beyond the Arab Spring. The editors assert that regardless of the shortcomings of the Arab Spring, throughout the Arab world, “citizens now realize the power of collective action: protest and campaigning.” In her foreword, Suad Joseph classifies “Women Rising” as a “volume of hope grounded in history and the lived present.” This collection verifies this hope by breaking the silence and celebrating the reform around gender issues.

The Wonders of a Village Childhood

Lynne Rogers
Stories My Father Told Me: Memories of a Childhood in Syria and Lebanon
By Elia Zughaib and Helen Zughaib
Cune Press, 2020
“Stories My Father Told Me: Memories of a Childhood in Syria and Lebanon” is a delightful collection of short one-page stories told to Elia Zughaib by his father, accompanied by paintings by his daughter, Helen Zughaib.

The Tragedies and Political Realities of Aleppo’s Old Red Light District

Naomi Pham and Elie Chalala
In a tale that spans generations, a recent novel shows the suffering of Syrian society through the abuse of sex workers and a struggle to make their smothered voices heard. Syrian novelist Ibtisam Ibrahim Tracy’s latest work, “Daughters of Lahlouha” (House of Culture for Publishing and Distribution, 2021), introduces readers to Syrian women suffering under both French mandate and Syrian regimes, social oppression, political tyranny, and the machinations of intelligence services over the past century. The novel was recently reviewed by Salman Zainuddin in Independent Arabia.
The corpse of the novelist Farida al-Raydah greets readers in the opening pages of the novel, crumpled in a chair with torn remnants of paper in her hands. On her computer lies an open, blank document entitled “Novel.” When a deliveryman named Abdel al-Salam discovers her, he searches through her belongings and finds the ready-to-publish manuscript of her novel discarded in the neighborhood trash bin.


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