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A Country Called Amreeka: Arab Roots, American Stories Hardcover – October 6, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-1416589723 ISBN-10: 1416589724 Edition: First Edition, 1st Printing
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The U.S. has long lauded itself as a nation of immigrants, but some communities have had considerable difficulty weaving themselves into the American tapestry, notably, Arab-Americans. In this superb snapshot of the Americans of Arab-speaking descent, individuals with roots in Jordan, Yemen, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon share their stories and demonstrate the extent to which, even as they play football, work assembly lines and hold public office, they remain shut out of the national narrative. 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? There's the Lebanese-American, too dark for 1960s Birmingham; the Palestinian-American surrounded by anti-Arab violence during the Iranian hostage crisis; the Yemeni-American deployed to Iraq with the Marine Corps. In her effort to demonstrate the impact of foreign affairs on American soil, Malek focuses too heavily on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, giving short shrift to other important stories of upheaval, but this is an excellent book, one certain to put right some of the wrongs it catalogues. (Oct.)
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“Like President Obama's first book, A Country Called Amreeka explores what it's like to be of two worlds at once…A wonderfully lucid and rational look at 20th century Arab American life. A book like this would be valuable in any era, but particularly now…it's welcome, brave and necessary.” --Dave Eggers, The San Francisco Chronicle

"...[Fills a] gap in our collective understanding of our own history...a worthwhile read. Richly told and beautifully written, [a] valuable contribution to the American story."—Political Affairs Magazine

"...Malek deftly illuminates the individual and collective lives of Arab-Americans in the U.S.." —Kelly Kennedy, Army Times

"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] superb snapshot of the Americans of Arab-speaking descent. [Malek has] a remarkable ability to capture her subjects' voices...An excellent book, one certain to put right some of the wrongs it catalogues."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Malek brings powerfully into focus...the story of the relationship between America and its Arab Americans. As the book progresses through time, a bigger story begins to emerge...An incredible journey." — Christian Science Monitor


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416589724
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416589723
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,955,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

ALIA MALEK is an author and civil rights lawyer. Born in Baltimore to Syrian immigrant parents, she began her legal career as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division. After working in the legal field in the U.S., Lebanon, and the West Bank, Malek, who has degrees from Johns Hopkins and Georgetown universities, earned her master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. Her reportage has appeared in Salon, The Columbia Journalism Review, and the New York Times. This is her first book. www.ACountryCalledAmreeka.com

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eleni on December 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Malek's stories on Arabs living in America are beautifully written tales of culture, religion, and identity. Malek frames her stories within the context of integration and social cohesion, interspersing bits of history while poignantly articulating characteristics of the real-life Arab-Americans she interviewed. A must-read for anyone interested in the personal stories of Arab immigrants and Arab American families.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Yoon on January 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a well-written book about 1st and 2nd generation Arab immigrants from various parts of the Middle East and religious groups, trying to make the American dream their own. I liked the style of the book with each chapter beginning with a factual event or U.S. policy that influenced the immigration from the Middle East followed by a story of a real character and seeing it through his or her perspective.

I don't think the author's presentation of the various characters was lopsided, nor was she heavy handed about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I think the stories read here are the first of many more to come. How many stories have we already read about other immigrant groups?

It was easy to read, and I am really impressed that this is the author's first book! I am looking forward to reading her next one!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Imad Moustapha on November 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After living for eight years in America and meeting thousands of Arab Americans across the continent, my desire to better understand the history and ethos of Arab Americans as well as the sort of influences that impact their sense of community and identity multiplied tenfold.

Not content with my own observations and impressions, I started looking through the literature for works that recorded and presented the communal history of Arab Americans. I discovered that the corpus was small and unsatisfying. I found Gregory Orfalea's book "Arab Americans: A History" to be one of the richest and most rewarding. Yet, instead of quenching my thirst to understand Arab Americans it made me keener than ever before on studying the socio-anthropology of this community.

Randa Kayyali's "The Arab Americans" was another notable book that I found to offer a great perspective on who the Arab Americans are and why did they come to America. However, I think this book is most valuable to non-Arab Americans who are looking for a better understanding of this integral part of the modern-day American national fabric.

In her book, Alia Malek approaches the story of the Arab American community through the modern history of America spanning nearly half a century. In a very clever and entertaining narrative she intertwines almost every major event in the annals of the Arab American history as influenced by the Middle East conflict with a personal story of an Arab American. The result is a breathtaking sweep of vignettes that illuminate and put in perspective the communal history and culture of Arab Americans.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jenn on January 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a brilliantly crafted and captivating mosaic of Arab Americans. Each segment provides an intimate portrait of the human experience at a time when an event of historical significance in Arab history meets one of personal significance in an Arab's history. Every individual, irrespective of race can relate to some aspect of the raw human emotion captured in this collection. Historically based works such as this often leave the reader bored with dry historical facts or skeptical about the validity of the information because it sounds too much like a work of fiction. While the characters are engrossing, I was very pleasantly surprised to see how well Alia Malek avoided this situation by creating a sense of balance. Whether a history aficionado or a novice, this book is a great read. There are little surprises along the way that draw gasps, smiles, and even a tear, but most importantly you finish the book feeling like you have learned something. Whether it's a historical or personal, that makes it a book worth reading. Finally, while the book is chronologically structured, weaving each portrait together through that historical progression, each segment reads like an independent novel. It's good to know that you can skip around or come back to a chapter without having to feel like you're missing anything by doing so. Love it!
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