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Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family Hardcover – August 1, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (August 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487081
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487088
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #348,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Playwright Said was raised in Manhattan’s Upper West Side as the Palestinian Lebanese American Christian daughter of parents who raised her as a secular humanist. Her father was the world-famous intellectual Edward Said. Idyllic, sun-soaked, early-childhood trips to 1970s Beirut, full of family and love, only slowly betrayed a simmering turmoil therein, and Said spends most of her life understanding and recalibrating her perceptions of her ancestral homelands versus those seen through the lens trained on the Middle East by the world at large. While Najla grows up a prep-school kid in the 1980s and 1990s, she digests narrow views of the Arab character, turns them inward in painful ways, and struggles to understand the complicated patchwork of her identity. Although those with stakes in any of Said’s backgrounds will have a more pointed interest in her explorations, most readers will relate to her ultimately universal discussion of growing up other. Said’s memoir is both a dear tribute to her father’s work and proof that acceptance of one’s roots—the hurdle to success and success itself—is most always hard earned. --Annie Bostrom

Review



"The scholar Edward Said was born in Jerusalem when it was Palestine under the British Mandate, immigrated to the U.S., was baptized an Episcopalian, supported Palestinian independence, married a Lebanese Quaker, and became a prominent professor at Columbia University. No wonder his daughter, Najla, was conflicted about her identity. If Edward’s Orientalism provides the intellectual framework for understanding postcolonialism, Najla’s memoir, Looking for Palestine, is the other side of the coin, as those same complex forces tug her life in multiple directions while she tries to understand who she is."—Daily Beast

"
In her engaging memoir, Looking for Palestine, Najla Said explores the cultural confusions of growing up Arab-American in the1970s and '80s New York City."—Elle

“What proves substantive and memorable about this book . . is the author's exploration of her relationship with her family and her social surroundings. . . . her snapshots of personal interaction with her father and their sometimes droll exchanges give the book an undeniably warm and intimate feel.”—San Francisco Chronicle

"Said's aching memoir explores her coming-of-age as a Christian Arab-American on New York's Upper West Side. . . . [Said's] complex persona, self-deprecationg humor, and focus on the personal rather than the political broaden the appeal of Said's book beyond any particular ethnic, cultural, or religious audience."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"In an illuminating memoir, the daughter of Edward Said, the writer, academic and symbol of Palestinian self-determination, explores her complex family history and its role in shaping her identity. . . . An enlightening, warm, timely coming-of-age story exploring the author’s search for identity framed within the confounding maze of America’s relationship with the Middle East."—Kirkus

“It can be a difficult story to tell: that of one's discontent in the midst of privilege. And yet with great skill, humor, and poignancy, Ms. Said accomplishes just that. In the end, she is her late father's great inheritor, ever-journeying toward that elusive home.”—Alica Erian, author of Towelhead

“Najla Said’s Looking for Palestine is a compassionate and candid book on her courageous coming-of-age in contemporary America. Said is a brilliant, talented and sensitive artist with a larger-than-life, loving father.”—Professor Cornel West

“A deeply penetrating, often hilarious, and occasionally devastating account of growing up Arab American. Of course, Najla Said’s scramble for her identity is uniquely hers. How many of us, after all, have had world-famous intellectuals as fathers, experienced the civil war in Lebanon first hand, and been kissed on the cheek by Yasir Arafat (which she hated)? But after finally finding the conviction to be at peace with herself, Najla Said has written more than a memoir. Looking for Palestine is a survivor’s guide for all of us who live with that feeling of being out of place wherever we are.”—Moustafa Bayoumi, author of How Does it Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America

“Thoughtful, searching, and open-eyed, Looking for Palestine takes readers on a journey into an Arab-American girl’s search for identity. The joy and pain of growing up in the long shadow of a brilliant parent, the struggle for meaning and belonging, and the painful dispossession of the Palestinians are all treated with tender care as Najla Said gives us a haunting and singular life story.”—Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent


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Customer Reviews

Amazing book, highly recommended.
Alexandra T. Schultz
She also effortlessly weaves in modern Middle Eastern history, which just adds to her personal story.
Susan Blumberg-Kason
This book is a quick read, and held my interest throughout.
g3

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's tough for girls growing up amid America's images of lithe blonde perfection; girls from non-white backgrounds have it even tougher. So imagine how hard it must be if your father is a world-famous spokesperson for one of Earth's most reviled ethnic groups. Najla Said's father, Palestinian-American professor Edward Said, changed the intellectual landscape with his classic, Orientalism. But that made life only harder for his daughter.

Already celebrated for her elaborate autobiographical one-woman show, having toured theatres and schools internationally with her tale of divided childhood, Najla Said now expands that story for readers beyond the stage. She proves a remarkably bold storyteller, blunt in her desire to expose the false face she spent years building. But unlike recent "confessional" memoirs, often lurid in their disclosures, Said keeps her story both personal and touchingly humane.

Growing up in Manhattan, Najla knew she didn't fit in with the "society girls" at her prep school. Nobody else's dad got regularly interviewed by Ted Koppel. Despite her parents' pride in their Lebanese-Palestinian heritage, she knew more about Jewish culture than her own. Yet she took these differences for granted, as children do, desperate for life to be normal. But the older she got, the more "normal" became a slippery target.

Said's memoir of growing up in her father's long shadow highlights the perils of minority life in modern plural society. She sought her unique identity, separate from her father's magisterial writing, but could not separate herself from the intellectual, heavily Jewish milieu in which she grew.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By George I. Greene VINE VOICE on July 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Najla Said writes with honesty and humor about her sense of vulnerability as an Arab American: how hard it is to be whole when one's identity becomes hyphenated. We hear through her how hard it is at times to bear one's peoplehood as one seeks to make one's own identity. Born in America with roots in the Middle East, her struggle is reminiscent to many who feel what it means to be a part of a minority, who sense what it means to be in exile in the country of one's birth. She shares the experience of her loneliness.

Najla Said takes no political stands; one should not expect any polemics. There is no gossip here. It is about a woman who seeks to make sense of her life so far. When I conclude reading it, I truly wanted to say to her, "Safe journey."
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By C. Cook VINE VOICE on July 7, 2013
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I enjoyed reading this book.

It was not difficult nor hard to understand and I read its 258 pages as one sit down with a couple of breaks for food and drink.

I enjoy learning of other cultures and the kinds of things that go on and the sorts of foods and other issues that happen.

This book has all of that.

Najla Said has written here her life story as a child. Most of the book is through her eyes ..and she was a child.....very few portions are written as an adult.

That's what makes it interesting. A childs' story of life as she sees it. No real outright lies...No spin...No poses.

I hate to really get too deep into this book here --because I believe it would spoil it for the reader.

But I would say to you--Get this book and read it. Learn something of Arabs , Palestinians , Lebanese persons , mid-eastern Americans , and folks coming to America just trying to fit in and find their own place in this world.

It certainly opened my eyes to some things of their culture and life style which goes a long way towards understanding them a little better as people.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Patricia L. Marks on July 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Najla Said has written a memoir very applicable to our current situations. So many say they are interested in "The Middle East" without perhaps fully understanding the complexity of this. From a very young age, the author struggles with her identity. She is the child of a famous scholar who teaches at Columbia University. Najla is a Christian Palestinian who attends private school in New York City. In an atmosphere with many Jewish students she somehow feels it necessary to hide who she is and where she is from. LOOKING FOR PALESTINE shows us the strong influence political situations have even on children who may not understand the volatile and often stereotypical images we have of one another. Najla goes through much to finally arrive at a comfort level with herself and her background. This journey is often sad but Najla is resilient . Many late adolescents and young adults can fathom Najla's arduous journey and identify with it. In such cases Najla feels fulfilled and at peace.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By CGScammell TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
These are the author's words early in this memoir. Najla Said, daughter of famous Columbian English professor and Palestinian civil rights advocate, tells her story of growing up in the Upper West Side of Manhattan at a time when being an Arab is associated with being a gun-toting black-masked Muslim terrorist. Her family is secular Christian: Episcopal Baptist Presbyterian Quaker to be more exact. She grew up at a time when the only Arabs that made the news were those who were going around skyjacking jet liners, massacring Israelis at Olympic Games, and killing Jews around the world. The American media certainly didn't help matters. Living in a Jewish part of town also didn't help much.

But what I also noticed is that Najla also grew up aware that her brother Wadie was favored more, that being in New York gave Jews more positive associations than being an Arab, and that her school mates at Chapin private school were all discriminating against her because she lived outside the standard 'hood of Chapin students. She so wanted to fit in and be accepted; she wasn't a typical blue-eyed blonde American girl popular with everyone. She grew into a teenager when cultural diversity wasn't yet a in the school curriculum, or even fashionable outside progressive cities. And ironically New York City has always been the one city in the USA that has been multi-cultural. She just didn't live in the right 'hood at the right time.

Her negative comments about herself got old fast. In hindsight she realizes she had it pretty good compared to her relatives left behind in Lebanon, and she herself has made a good life for herself.
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